The ballot box has a hole

“Mweshimiwa, Mweshimiwa—listen, listen to me,” said A., “you have not lost! I—”

“Aa-aa, I am sorry to say…” said B., glancing at Mheshimiwa’s face, and looking away straightaway, ‘I am sorry to say, Mheshimiwa—I think you lost.”

It was the night after the election, it was 10 o’clock on B.’s watch, it was 9:55 on A.’s watch; it was raining outside, it was hot in Mheshimiwa’s house—and he had locked himself in his spare room, and his chief agents, mentioned as A. and B., flanked him.

A. stood on the left side of Mheshimiwa, who sank in a sofa, and reposed his head upon his right-hand palm—by the cheek, of which hand he elbowed upon his knee, of the leg which tapped the floor—tap, tap, tap, over and over. He, Mheshimiwa, who’d contested the MCA seat, stared at the table in front of him, and he permitted his head to sway, up and down, with the tapping of his foot, as he wondered, and wondered, and wondered—and his mind flew back into the campaign season…and the funds he had spent—10 million and more…and the loans he owed, 5 million and more—and next his mind flew forth, into the future—the next five years, during which time he’d wither in the cold, and a sound issued from the eye of his heart, and travelled out of his mouth, not to A. who stood on his left, nor B., who sat on the table, on his right—but shrank into inaudibility.

“Mgr-mgr!” said B, clearing his throat. “Mheshimiwa, did…did you say something?”

Mheshimiwa did not answer, but said, more to himself, “A, a, a!”

“Mheshimiwa, you lost this one square. I know. Call Mshindi (the competitor whom the R.O. declared winner, by 20 votes), and congratulate him. It is—”

“You, B., wait—” said A.

“—aa-aa. You listen, A.—”

“No! You worked for Mheshimiwa,” said A to B, “you work for Mheshimiwa, ya? ya—?”

“Of—of course. Of course I do—”

“—then you defend his candidacy! You—”

“—aa-aa. This one we have lost square. Mheshimiwa—Mheshimiwa,” said B., touching Mheshimiwa on the shoulder nearer him, “this one…this one we have lost. Asiye…asiye kubali kushindwa si nini? Eh, si nini—?”

And between their altercation, Mheshimiwa only but said, more to himself, “A, a, a!”

                                                                                ***

Then at once, reader, A.’s phone rang. Away from the table he stepped, to one corner of this spare room (the political room). Therefrom, he received his call, cupping his right-hand palm about his mouth, and speaking in the lowest voice, as not to agitate Mheshimiwa.

His conversation, went as follows, as his voice rose, by and by:

Yes? Who is this? Yes—yes, I know you. Things have not worked well…

Yes? What, 992? Or 929? Yes? Are you sure? Yes? I know—I know.

I understand. I will. I will not. I will. I will not, I promise…thank you—haya, bye. Haya, bye—thank you. Bye.

When he concluded the call, to Mheshimiwa, back at the couch, he dashed. “Mheshimiwa, Mheshimiwa,” said A., joggling Mheshimiwa’s knee, to rouse him out of his breakdown, “Mheshimiwa, look, we have a problem—you did not lose! Look at me—” and Mheshimiwa raised his head for the first time, and looked into A.’s eyes, his own eyes, teary and dark and deep “—trust me, Sir, something was done—” yet Mheshimiwa did not utter a word, but B., who jerked at A.’s arm, and straightened him up by it, so that they looked at each other full in the face, and next, B. said, in a hiss, “You know Mheshimiwa has ulcers! Why are you trying to mess with his mind—you work for him, right—?”

“I am his chief agent—why wouldn’t I—?” said A. in a loud voice, which disposed B. to pull him away from Mheshimiwa, to the same corner, wherefrom A. received a call earlier. And there B. said, “Look, don’t stress him more—”

And A. said, “Don’t be silly! Truth has nothing to do with ulcers—or—or stress—if—if he won, he won! Period!”

“He did not win!” said B., suppressing his voice under a whisper.

“He did!” from A.

“He did not!”

“He did,” said A., “polling station 12—polling station 12—this, this was under your supervision—what did Meshimiwa get there? How many?”

“Station 12 or 21?” said B.

“I said 12—how many votes?”

“900—and something…”

“Confirm, confirm, call. Call the person who was there—” said A.

“…it was 900—and twenties, yes. And twenties—”

“—confirm!”

Thus agent B. pulled his phone from his pocket, and called someone. When he made as if to walk away, so as to speak at the other corner, A. restrained him, by the arm. From his conversation on the phone, B. said the following:

Ya? Can you hear me? Hallo! Yes. What was the number? Yes—yes, 919? 929…919? Ah, yes. Yes. Ok.

And then he deposited the phone into his breast pocket.

“929,” he said.

“Ya!” said A., “there’s the problem! It was not 929—it was 992! Tulicheswo! He did not lose,” he said, pointing away at Mheshimiwa.

“What did you say?” said from Mheshimiwa, leaping from the couch to the two, at the corner.

“Mheshimiwa,” said B., “it is nothing, please go sit—”

“His votes were reduced and you tell him to sit down!” said A., snatching B. by the collar, “were you working for Mshindi—?”

“Leave me! I will hit you—leave me—” said B., liberating himself from A.’s grab. And Mheshimiwa, who now planted himself between them, as to avert a brawl, said to A. again, “what did you say?”

Before A. answered his boss, B., who clicked his tongue and mumbled to himself, rushed out of the room in protest, “People have decided!”

And now A. said to Mheshimiwa, in a whisper, “Sir, tulicheswo. Station 12. In station 12, you had 992—”

“Ah?” said Mheshimiwa, covering his mouth with a palm.

“—but in form 36B—”

“36A, you mean, 36A,” said Mheshimiwa, widening his mouth and eyes.

“—yes, yes. Instead of 992, they wrote 929…my source told me—you defeated him, Sir—”

“—yes?” said Mheshimiwa, clenching his fists, preparing for a reaction.

“You defeated Mshindi!”

“Yes!”

“Yes!” said A., hugging Mheshimiwa, who did not embrace back. “We will file a petition, Sir. This win is yours!”

“Is this,” said Mheshimiwa, holding A. from him, so he could observe his face, “is this source reliable?”

“Yes! I trust her, Sir. I will give you the full details tomorrow. But one thing you should know, Sir, mgr-mgr! Agent B., though he is your nephew, Sir…I think he betrayed you. He was working for Mshindi all this time, he was a mole!”


 

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_07

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered 01 to 06)


TO TELL A STORY_07

That evening, after I discovered that Ayen helped Biel with his practice writing, I admonished the former. Then we agreed to skip a day and meet Friday of the same week. When we met again at the bench, the following happened.

Biel arrived first and a few minutes on, Ayen appeared. This time she wore a black trouser and a white blouse, and she came along with a small girl. The small girl whom Ayen came with had a white flower stuck into her hair, at the top of her head, and Ayen had her own hair bound by a white band. The two sat on my right, and Biel on my left.

As far as I noticed, the small girl knew Ayen, and the small girl knew Biel, but the small girl had not seen me, of course. She glanced at my face at one moment, and the next glanced at the ground. The next she checked my nose or chin, and the other my shoe. So she engaged herself, and meanwhile, Biel, Ayen and I, exchanged pleasantries. It then got to the turn where Ayen should introduce the small girl.

“Nana,” said Ayen, holding her by the shoulder, “greet my friend [me]. Tell him your name. Tell him.” But the girl submerged herself in shyness.

Ayen then prompted her to stand before us. “Nana, don’t be shy. Speak. What is your name?”

“Nana,” said the girl. She, the girl, was tall when she stood, she was slender, and she was introverted, or so she seemed.

Now I recalled what Ayen mentioned prior Wednesday when she read to me the names of her girls. I remembered she said Nana hailed from Burundi, she the girl who wrote. “Hallo,” I said to the girl, stretching my hand for a handshake, “hallo, Nana?”

“Hallo to you,” she said in a little voice, with a tinge of an accent, and looking at my shoes. Those days I wore these shoes with pointed and curved tips. Now Ayen continued the conversation from here. “Ask him his name,” she said to Nana the little girl.

“What is your name?” said Nana, fidgeting her fingers before her dress. I told her, Taifa. And she said, “Taifa who?” I told her, Taifa Mkenya. Then she said, “Are you from Kenya?” I said, Yes. Then she looked at Ayen, as though to secure permission to say a word. Ayen nodded, and Nana next said to me, “Do you know Anne?”

“Which Anne..?” I said, “Ah, Anne from Nairobi? Yes, yes, I do.” Then I waited for her to speak next. Few seconds passed and then she said, “I wrote her a poem titled Hear my Voice.

I then asked her if she could recite it. And she looked at Ayen again, who nodded, and Nana continued thus, I remember.

Girls were scattered across the world

By Him who created soul, flesh, and blood

Some girls fell in the desert, of Syria and Arabia

Others fell in cities, in Berlin, Tokyo, and Brasilia

Wherever she is, she needs care and schooling

This she gets in some places, elsewhere, fooling

Here at Kakuma we get the former, mostly

Though the latter erupts sometimes unexpectedly

I am Nana, hello to you, Anne

Your friendship I wish to earn

Nairobi, for me

For me, greet Nairobi

I followed her poem from beginning to end, and told her to repeat it, which she did, with more gusto. Nana sat down after her second recitation, and Ayen hugged her and brushed her hair in commendation. “Has Anne replied to your email?” said Ayen, and Nana shook her head, upon which Ayen advised her to allow Anne more time to respond, and expect the response over the weekend latest.

Ayen and Nana having stopped conversing now, I turned to Biel and asked him how things fared. “My Friend,” he said, “me I have been fine. My brother in the house was sick of malaria, but he is good now. Me I got drugs for him from the clinic and give him to swallow, though he vomit most of the tablets but I force him to take. I block his nose and put the last tablet in his throat and pour a jug of water inside. He cough but he swallow finally. Thank God. But me myself I am very good, and I have written more pages, see—”

“Ah, let me see,” I said, receiving his practice book, from which I read the following narration.

When the four South Sudanese came from the mud of the White Nile they walk faster-faster to the restaurant of The Nile Queen. The lady Adut walk with the young man Luok, in front; while, the two young men—Gat and Deng, follow them tudup tudup. They pass through lines of shopping structures on both sides of the path they walk. And some of these shops and buildings, the war charred dark, and left broken, because of the arson and looting that fly on the wings of war. Along the path they see boulders, and tires—some burnt, some planted on the road as barriers. These were the remnants of the war, because at this time, today, nobody stopped them. On the steps of the shops they see people seated. Some old, some young; some female, some male; some curious, some relaxed. “Those people look at us funny. They think we are refugees,” said Gat to Deng, whom he walked by, behind the pair of Adut and Luok.

They covered one corner of the path and then the restaurant revealed itself. And they hurried there. In, they entered, and sat around one table, Deng and Gat on one side, Adut and Luok on the other. At once Deng said, “Waiter! Waiter, bring ‘Kisra’.”

Against this, Adut said, “Kisra makes me vomit. No Kisra on this table. Or I will move.”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Writer of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler. And he wants to entertain you]

Allegra Goodman

“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.”
—Allegra Goodman

BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_06

Image:photopin.com

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered 01 to 05)


TO TELL A STORY_06

Wednesday approached, and evening followed. When evening followed, Ayen and Biel arrived at the bench by Napata Grounds, where I had waited for them, thirty minutes past.

Image:photopin.com

Image:photopin.com

This time Ayen wore a white dress and black slip-ons, and she carried a notepad; while Biel, a black t-shirt and a grey short, with sandals. On one side of me, the right-hand side, they settled after greetings, and Ayen begun:

“My brother, I told you the other day that I have three little girls whom I mentor?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes, so, brother, these little girls have years between nine and thirteen, and they all go to school—in that primary school at the center of the camp. I tell you brother, these girls love learning, and so when I leave Arrupe Centre on weekends mostly, I go and sit with them in one of their houses, and teach them math and science, and in turn they sing for me folk songs from their countries. By name, the girls are”–she opened her notebook–“Jetti, from Congo—well, she was born here. Her mother came to the camp when she was seven months pregnant. She is the funniest, she sings Ndombolo Ya Solo (which she said her mother teaches her), and dances as if she has no skeleton. Then we have Nana, from Burundi. She is the tallest and lightest, and a runner. She is very good at writing. Then we have Bilan, who came all the way from Baidoa—”

“Somalia?”

“Yes, brother,” said she, continuing the enumeration with her fingers, and checking from her notebook time to time, “she is shy, this Bilan, but very sharp. Then we have…we have Nyabol from Sudan. Her father was Nuer, and her mother is Dinka. But when the war broke, as she remembers, I am not sure if she remembers correctly—because it happened when she was five years—but she said her father was killed during the skirmish in Malakal, by a Dinka man who was seeing her mother. The last one is Uwimana from Rwanda, we call her Uwi for short, and she is the most beautiful of the five. Now brother, as I have told you, these girls, Jetti, Nana, Bilan, Nyabol and Uwi, are very promising girls as I see it, and with your help, I would like to give them hope. I want them to get the picture”—here, placing her notebook on her lap, she raised her hands, and formed a globe with them—“I want them to get the picture of the world, so that they may know that…that there is more beyond the camp. One time some woman from UN came here, I was still young, but what she said I still remember. I remember she said,

give a girl education and hope, and the future of the world is guaranteed.

“So my brother, as I told you, through your support, I want to connect these girls to other girls outside of this camp, for them to exchange letters, emails, books, and stories. Maybe I can even start a blog, and call it something like…something like—Voices from the Camp, or A Girl Speaks…or something like that, and then…and then post their stories there. What do you think—what do you think, Biel—” said she, jostling Biel’s knee with hers.

“Me,” said Biel, “Me I think that is a very good idea—what do you think, Taifa?” he said to me.

“I don’t know what to say—it is…is a very good idea!” I said. I remember. “In fact, Ayen,” I said to the girl, who sat between Biel and me, “Ayen, I got the list I promised–of the names of the girls we can pair with your girls, for pen pals.” From my pocket, I removed a paper on which I had scribbled some notes, “Here, this, this—” said I, pointing at the first name “—this.”

“Anne,” said she, observing the list.

“Yes, Anne. She is from Nairobi. She studies in a private school there, in class seven. I am a friend of her father. And, this is her email. And this is the father’s email. I have included the emails of their parents, to be copied in their correspondences. Just for…just for—”

“Yes, I understand,” said Ayen.

“Then this is Alice, from South Africa. This, Jude, from Romania. Eva, Brazil. Aiko, Japan. Here, take. So,” said I, joining my palms, “you can go ahead and link them up. And share with us the stories and the songs they write. About the blog, as I see I want to run out of the camp just now, let’s talk about it next time.”

She folded the paper and enclosed it with her hands. Biel, all this time had held his practice book in the hand, and so I stretched mine to receive it from him. I flipped the pages to where the current writing started, and intended to close it, and carry it with me. But I saw the first words of his writing, which attracted me. The sentence begun thus:

Only eternity, but everything else ends. Love ends, hate ends. Wars end, peace ends. Drought ends, floods end, and even a boat ride, but at the instigation by someone. To the other bank on the east of the White Nile they reached, and Gat paid Kamau—the boat rider from Kenya, who had recounted to them about his experience in Kisumu, while they rowed. Now the four, Gat, Deng, Luok and Adut left the boat and waded onto land…

Upon reading these beginning sentences, I turned to Biel, and asked him if he wrote them himself. He lowered his head, and rubbed his sandals against the dust. “Did you help him?” I said to Ayen, and she nodded.

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Writer of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler. And he wants to entertain you]

BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_05

Image: photopin.com/ivan.zanolla

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered 01 to 04)


TO TELL A STORY_05

The next time we met at the bench was Tuesday, and it was about to rain—and whenever it rained in Kakuma, it poured. This time Biel had not come, but he’d sent Ayen to submit his practice writing on his behalf. The previous day Ayen had asked me if I had any friends outside the country, to which I agreed. At first I had thought she wanted to leave the camp, and so intended to obtain a list of foster homes from me, or something like it; but I realized I was misguided. As we talked on yesterday, I learnt Ayen mentored some little girls in the camp, five in number, and she wanted to find pen pals for them, in other countries, so they could share stories through letters. We left the matter standing, at which point I promised to reach to anyone I knew in neighboring countries and even far away in other continents, and revert to her Wednesday, latest.

Why today she represented Biel, she said, “My brother,” referring to me, “my friend has gone to take his share of food, because it is about to rain, and if he misses today he will stay two weeks without. If he finishes early he will come here, if not, he will meet you tomorrow. That is why he sent me. How are you doing, my brother?”

I said I was doing well indeed, at which point I received Biel’s work from her, and read it as follows:

Image: photopin.com/ivan.zanolla

Image: photopin.com/ivan.zanolla

Chwaa chwaa the oars pushed the water; now left side, next right, next left, now right side of the boat; and on they moved; all quiet but the water, chwaa, chwaa. Gat and Deng sat on the back of the boat, and Adut and Luok in front, and the boat rider at the middle, rowing, chwaa, chwaa. The four, all from Malakal, were going to Lul, to look for Gat’s sister, who had escaped during the confusion in the war in Malakal; but now the war in the whole South Sudan had ended, including Malakal.

It was now late morning, and the sun had risen and faced them from the front, for they headed to the east, crossing the White Nile from the west. The four had intended to visit The Nile Queen restaurant, to drink breakfast there, before continuing with the journey northward. But all the four were silent, not because they lacked stories to share, but because Adut (a fine Dinka woman) disliked Deng who was Dinka, and Deng who I have just said was Dinka, hated Luok who was Nuer, and friend of Adut.

Chwaa chwaa the oars pushed the water; now left side, next right, next left, now right side of the boat; and on they moved; all quiet but the boat rider, who now cleared his voice as if he prepared to speak. On they moved, and now the boat rider said, midway the river, “I must ask you, you people, where are you going?” He must have noticed the four acted in manner indicating they had quarreled or fought, or that one, or two of them, was held under duress of some kind. This boat rider obtained an answer from Deng, who had sat behind him, which went like this:

“Mind your own rowing business.”

After a while however, Gat, who had sat next to Deng at the back of the boat, elbowed him on the ribs and now said to the boat rider, “We are going to Lul.”

Chwaa chwaa the oars pushed the water; now left side, next right, next left, now right side of the boat; the boat was long, the boat was wide, the boat was black—like the water, the boat was of oak, and the oars so. And on they moved; all quiet but the boat rider, who then asked Adut and Luok, who sat in front of him, their names. To this question Luok answered for himself and Adut, and the boat rider in turn said he was called Kamau, from Kenya.

Chwaa chwaa the boat rider rowed, without talking, then soon he said to all of them, “Are you all Nuer? Or all Dinka?”

Gat, who led the team, identified his comrades, to which Kamau from Kenya said, as he rowed, “My friends, let me say something. You see me…me I grew up in western Kenya, in some place called Kisumu, at the shores of Lake Victoria—”

“I know that place,” said Adut, the Dinka lady who had not spoken so far on the boat.

“Haiya,” said Kamau, the boat rider, “you have been there?” and chwaa chwaa he rowed, on and on.

“Yes. We went for university exchange program, in a university called Museno.”

“You mean, Maseno?” said Kamau.

“Eeh, yes! Yes,” said Adut.

“Aah, Maseno…Maseno, it is a very nice place. So,” said Kamau, “me I was saying, I grew and lived in Kisumu for many years. The Lord blessed me with a wife, a child and boats. Many boats. These boats, I used to rent them to fishermen, young people, of about your age. And they would pay me. I lived like that.” Chwaa chwaa, on and on, he rowed, sweating and talking: “one day, some years ago, clashes started, after a general election, and now everybody turned against everybody. Me I can tell you my friends, war is bad, very bad. Mgrh, mgrh!” said he, clearing his throat. Then on an on, kamau rowed, not speaking.

“What happened to your family?” said Adut, after some moment of silence.

“My friend, me I tell you, in short, they died in the clashes. Me I don’t like remembering it. I just say it to you my friends because I know peace is good. To cut the story short, me I came here, because there was a brother of mine living in Malakal. He bought for me this boat and gave me some money to start with. So my friends, we thank God for life.”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempterof waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_04

Image: photopin.com

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered 01 to 03)


TO TELL A STORY_04

At the bench I arrived earlier than Biel and the girl he’d talked about. Biel came next, and after salutations, he gave me his practice writing, and the story ran thus:

On and on the four walked. And after an hour they reach The Nile Queen restaurant, though they were on the western side of the White Nile, and they had to take boat to cross to eastern side, on Gat’s suggestion. On the western side of the river there was bushes and shrubs; while on eastern side there was settlement and rough roads. Luok and Adut had walk together, and now they stand together near the bank of the river, and Gat walk to them, leaving Deng a distance away. He said to them, “Me I think we need to cross to the other side and take something, me I know you stomach is hot.”

“Yes, we’re hungry,” Adut say, “but we shall use separate boats. Luok and me, and you and Deng.”

“My sister,” said Gat, “that is no necessary. We can fit all of us in one boat. No need to use two, and waste money for nothing.”

“Why do you think I did not want Deng to come?” said Adut, “it is because of this. But you let him come.”

“My sister—” said Gat.

“No, do not say ‘my sister—my sister’ and you do not do what I want,” said Adut, waving her hands against Gat. Now Gat look at Luok who had stood next to Adut but looking at his own feet, and wink to him when he look up, for him to do something.

And soon Luok step close to Adut and said, “My dear,” and he touch her on the waist, “we are going to get Gat’s sister. Let’s climb the boat and go, it will not harm—”

“You have never,” said Adut to Luok, though Gat could hear, “you have never asked me what he did to me, that beast. Do you know what he did?”

“My dear, this is not the time. It is not the place. Let’s go and we will talk about it in the evening. Please,” said Luok.

Meanwhile, four boat riders had risen from the water and climbed the bank to talk to Deng, who had stand alone in the distance. Those boat riders they wore shorts, or trousers cut into shorts at the knees, which looked jagged, and orange life jackets. They seemed to bargain about the prices, but Deng could not pick on any of them, and he keep looking at his colleagues, since he was uncertain whether they would continue with the journey at all.

With the other group, Adut now agreed to climb one boat with the rest. And Gat whistled to Deng to arrange for one. The boat rider who Deng chose, rush to the water to untie his boat, and immediately push it close to the shore where the four could board. Luok and Adut entered the boat first, and she and he sit on the plank at front-most part of the boat, and Gat and Deng entered next, and sat at the back of the boat, so that the boat rider rowed from the middle, and separated them so. And so the cross-over started from the west to the east, all of them four silent, only the oars pushing and slapping the grey water of the White Nile, chwaa chwaa.

The quality of Biel’s story had improved, and I told him so. “Biel, this is getting better—”

“Thank you, my Friend,” he said.

“—probably you need to make it clear,” I said, “why the four characters have difficulty traveling together, and if there is any history to, and why Gat wants them to be together—”

“Yes, me I understand. The reason why Adut does not want Deng on the trip is because—”

“—no, don’t tell me now. That you will capture in the next writing.”

“Me I understand.”

“Then.”

“Yes, my Friend.”

“Then, also work on the setting. Make the place where the story happens as real as possible—”

“Like a true place, my Friend?”

“—no, no. Not necessarily a real place. Whatever the place, make the reader live it. Then—”

I stopped at this point, for someone had tapped Biel on his back, at which point he turned his head, and induced me to do so. There, behind us, stood a tall and a dark girl, of slender body and modish clothing, who carried some goods in a black polythene bag. I supposed her Ayen, and what she carried my books, and soon Biel confirmed this. ‘Ayen!’ he said, ‘I had beginning to think you will not come.’

‘There was something that delayed me at the Centre,’ she said, in a soft and level voice. She now walked round the bench to the front side, so she faced us. Waiting, and suppressing smiles, she expected Biel to introduce her, and seeing that he did not, she issued her hand to me, and said, ‘I am Ayen.’

Her hand I shook, and returned that she could call me Taifa. Now Biel tapped the space between us on the bench, he sliding away, that Ayen should sit on the space so created. After sitting, she unwrapped the books from the black bag, and raised them to me. But, Biel snatched them, saying he hadn’t finished reading them. And a period of silence began.

Biel perused his books, Ayen kneaded her fingers, while I tapped a foot of mine on the dust, waiting for Ayen to state her reason for seeing me. The reason however, never came and we’d have remained thus till nightfall, had I not said, “So…Ayen.”

“Yes, my brother,” she said.

“How do you do?”

“Fine, my brother.”

“Aah…you wanted—you are a friend of Biel?”

“Yes, my brother,” said she, and another duration of silence followed. In the interim, Biel perused the books he had, and whistled as he did. And then when he noticed Ayen and I had quieted, he said, “Ayen, tell him what you wanted to say.” Upon this, Ayen kneaded her fingers the more, and focused her sight on my shoes, that I stopped tapping the ground, and then she said, without raising her head, “My brother, do you have any friends out of the country?”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempterof waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

A BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_03

Image: Google

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered the first and second)


TO TELL A STORY_03

On scorching days, as was the case in Kakuma Camp then, and even now, time crawled. On dusty days, as was the case everywhere you stepped, inside or outside the camp, the eyelashes thickened. And if you lived with allergy like I, you sneezed tsia tsia tsia. The sun rose and fell, Wednesday and after; and my work progressed, Thursday, Friday through Sunday. Meanwhile I hoped Biel read the books I gave him Tuesday evening, for I saw him play basketball at the court most times of the days that succeeded. And we would meet Monday.

On more scorching days the brain sleeps, and the body wears and whines, and begs for rest. Up until then, for the time I had stayed outside the camp for my assignment, no day had scorched as hard as Monday, and I went to meet Biel at the bench that evening, a weary man. However, on his part, he displayed such agility of body and spirit, if by adaptation or mettle I couldn’t tell then, that it activated me at once. So then, he and I having sat at the bench, he never handed back any of my texts (though he had come with his practice exercise book), but said, “My Friend, how was your week?”

“Very good. What have you been up to?” I said.

“My Friend, listen, the books you give me, I give a girl. She come to our house one day, in the evening, and I give her all books. She was very happy. She will bring back tomorrow, and I will bring them to you, my Friend. That is not make you angry?”

“No, no. That is perfectly ok,” I said, tapping him on the shoulder, for he had sat close to me on the bench. Then I waited for him to speak further.

In a while, he said, “Me I have not write many words from last time…”

“Ok…”

“Listen, my Friend, me when I want to write, there in our house, this girl called Ayen, who I give the books, she come and tell me stories. She is Dinka. Me I am Nuer. But you see, my Friend, she come from her camp to our camp, and enter our house there.”

“How do you relate?”

“Me I cannot say. Because, because first time I see her in the Arrupe Learning Centre. She was learning Computer. Almost one week ago. The second day I go to Centre, I see her. The third day I see her. When I leave the Centre she also leave. When I walk slowly she walk slowly behind me. When I walk fast she walk fast behind me. So, day go and day go, she do so. But me I did not know that she see where our house is.

Image: Google

“So, the day you give me books to read, I go home and sit and read. Then I hear nok nok on the door. And I say, ‘Welcome!’ then the girl come in, head first, and I see the head of Ayen, then her body. She say, ‘Biel, can I come in?’ but she was already in. So I say Yes, and I stop reading. And I start wondering why she come?”

“Go on, go on—” I said.

“I wait for her to say something. But she stand there not saying anything. I tell her to sit down. She sit on the plastic chair near the door, but still saying nothing. She touch her fingers and smile a little. Me I wanted to give her something to eat, but there was no food that day in the house. You see they give us food for fifteen days. When it get finished we wait for next round. She saw me looking at the house as if I wanted to make food for her, and now she say, ‘Don’t bother,’ in voice like that of very small girl. But she does not look me on the head. So I say, ‘What brings you to our house?’ and she say, ‘I want to be your friend’, and I say, ‘Why?’ and she say, ‘Just like that.’”

“Ehe…how old is he?”

“Me I don’t know. But she is almost of my height, and size. She has big breasts also, and small waist. I tell you, my Friend, so we sit like that without talking. She then say, ‘What are those?’ putting her hands forward, and I give her all the books which you give me last week. Me I had put them on the stool by the chair where I had sit. She open one book and look inside. The second she open few pages and look inside. The third, like that. The fourth. Then she say, ‘Please give me these.’ And I say, ‘No, books are not mine.’ She ask who they belong to, and I say ‘To my friend.’ And she say, ‘The one who carries a bag and camera, and wears black cap?’ So me I wonder how she know. And I so ask her if she follow me everywhere-everywhere. But now she tell me she think you are a journalist. And she want to talk to journalist—”

“If she wanted to talk to me, why couldn’t she just approach me?”

“She say she fear new people. But me she say she does not fear, even though me I am Nuer, she see me many times so she is not afraid. So, my Friend, she send me to ask you if you can agree to meet her. If you can tell me to tell her to come here in this field, because she want to talk to you. Can you accept that, my Friend?”

“What does she want to talk about?”

“Me I don’t know. She just tell me that she want to meet you. Because she know you are journalist.”

“Ok. Come with her tomorrow evening.”

“Thank you, my Friend…here, me I write few words for the practice. Here, take,” said he, handing me his practice writing.

I opened the book and followed the story of Gat, who, with his friends, one morning began the journey to Lul on foot, to locate his sister after the South Sudan war. The story continued thus:

Gat and Deng walk behind Adut and Luok. Deng carried a backpack with things inside, and Adut, the only female out of the men, carry no bag, no purse. They walk for some minutes, all of them not talking. They walk fast along a path, which was raised, and down yonder when you look you saw the White Nile, flowing slowly. They walk to the direction where the water was going, down, down, toward Egypt. After some minutes, Deng say to Jack, “My man, why you bring these others when you know you and I can go to Lul ourselves?”

And Gat say, “The war is over my friend. Me I want us to return to be friends the way we all were. We are young people. If we become friends again, we cannot fight again.”

“Let me tell you, Gat,” said Deng, “if you don’t know, it is friends who fight badly, and cut off heads of each other, I tell you.”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempterof waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

A BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_02

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

(we have so far covered the first)


TO TELL A STORY_02

“Ok. Listen, we have agreed that you must love what you write, ok?” I said.

“Me, I understand,” Biel said.

“The next simple thing you need to do, is to use action verbs and nouns—”

“Me, I don’t understand,” he said.

“Look here,” I said, pointing at a sentence in the story, “you say here, ‘One early morning, in the town of Malakal, the morning not very cold and not very dark, Gat come down from his home hurriedly-hurriedly’, what is ‘hurriedly-hurriedly’?”

“Very fast.”

“Then, just say, he came down from his home fast, you see?”

“Eh.”

“Or better yet, he hurried from his home down the hill or he hurried down the hill from his home, you see?”

“Eh.”

“Most important, use strong verbs and nouns, don’t forget that.”

Biel went away to his camp, among the Nuer people, and left me there at the bench, as I watched the kids play football late into the evening. That night, I thought about Biel, and his concept about the world within the camp, and the notions about the camp without.

As agreed when we parted previous evening, we met again the following day, which was Tuesday; and he had written five pages more in his exercise book, in pencil. The story ran thus:

When Gat reach splitting path near White Nile where he told Adut to wait, at the spot where the path made a folk, he found Adut standing on the path that lead to the right, and saw another man standing on the path that lead to the left, some distance away, but he could not know who that man was, because the man wear a hood and look away from where Adut stand. “Adut, how are you?” Gat ask Adut.

“I am fine. I hope I am not late one minute?” Adut ask Gat.

“No, it is perfectly fine. I have come down fast, I was thinking I might have kept you waiting here,” Gat say.

“No,” say Adut, “I think we are on time. But you see that man there…” Adut say, pointing to the man of hood, “he stand there and give me fear from my legs up to my teats—”

Before Adut finished her speak, Gat walked on the other path to the left to talk to the man of hood. When he get close to the man of hood, the man of hood hear footsteps of Gat and turn. When he turn, Gat saw he was Deng. Deng, who I said was one-time boyfriend of Adut, say before Gat say hello, “My Brother, why do you tell her to come?”

“Who?” say Gat to Deng, “Adut?”

“Eeh,” say Deng.

“Look, Deng, she know the way to Lul, on foot. Me, I don’t know. Me I have not gone there.”

“My Brother, tell her to remain. I have Google Maps. She is not come with us to Lul.”

“Because why?” said Gat to Deng.

“Because I don’t like her.”

“Me, if she do not come, me I will go alone. And let both of you remain.”

Seeing that Gat was resolute in his decision, Deng agreed that Adut should go too. Now both of them walked to where Adut stand. Very fast, Adut notice who the man of hood was. And she say, “Woi! Gat, why you bring him here? Is he also going to Lul?”

“Yes,” say Gat.

“No! No, no. If he must go to Lul, me I will not go. He is bad man—”

Gat did not want to ask why Adut hate Deng, and why, in turn, Deng dislike Adut. He knew they were once attached, like arrow roots to a stem, but why they come to dislike each other that way after the war, he did not know. So he said to Adut, “If Deng go not, I will go alone to Lul and leave both of you here.” And seeing that Gat was resolute in his decision, Adut agree that Deng should go too.

Once they all agree that all was going, Deng tell Gat they should start journey right away, and use the path that go to the left, because someone told him it was shorter route. When Adut hear this, she say they should use the path that lead to the right, because she know it. If Gat did not ask them to stop shouting, they would have caught the throat of each other and fought. Gat say, “We are waiting for another person to come, and we will use the path on the right, because Adut know it. Is that good, Deng?”

“Is no problem,” Deng say in tone of surrender.  

The three waited not more than few minutes when they saw a young man of equal size with Gat, hurry down the hill from his home, wherever that was. When he reach close to the three, Deng, who had the eyes of eagle, notice him first and say, “Woi! Gat, why you bring him here? Is he also going to Lul?”

Gat had stood facing the two, Deng and Adut. And these two had stood apart by strides. When Deng ask Gat if that new man was going, before Gat reply, Adut hope to where Gat stand and say, back to Deng, “Yes! He is going”—and then she turn to Gat and say—“is it not like that? He is going, eh?” Gat reply not to Adut, but look at the new young man who was hurrying down to them.

This new young man who the three now identified, was Luok, son of Machar, he who was young man of same age as Gat, and he lived nearby. Deng, who was becoming angry, walked from where he stand to another point, then to another point, then come back to where he stand at first, and now say, “If he go, Gat, me I will not go.”

To this, Luok, whom Adut had now touched on the shoulder, as if they were boyfriend and girlfriend, say, “If I am problem, then Gat, three of you go without me.”

“No, no,” say Adut, now touching the small beard of Luok, “if you remain, me I remain also.”

At this point, Gat walk to Deng and say something to his ear, and Deng nod his head like a gecko. All them in agreement of going, they started their journey along the path to the right, Luok and Aduk leading, and holding hands, while Gat and Deng following, and not talking.

I paused at this point. Recalling the story in my mind, I found it confusing, if not complicated. Biel read my judgment, and in consequence said, “My Friend, how is the beginning, if you compare with yesterday?”

“Mghr-mghr.”

“I know you say I should use many verbs, but I try yesterday night, and the story not flow—”

“Listen, wait…” I said, pulling some material from my suitcase, “I have brought you some books…here, take. Now, I want you to start with these. Read them. When you finish, you let me know, ok?”

“Yes, my Friend. The River Between,” he said, sliding the books over each other, to read the titles, “Dust…Long Walk to Water…I will Marry when I Want…me I have not read these. But me, I thank you. Asante sana. So me I want to know, how is the beginning?”

“Listen, Biel, don’t worry about the beginning. What I want you to do, enh, what I want you to do is to get the feel of how other writers write. Enh? See how they structure sentences, see—see how they develop the story line, generally feel how a good story grows, ok?”

“Yes, my Friend,” he said, nodding.

“Then we can meet next week.”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempterof waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life. Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]

A BOY IN THE CAMP LEARNS TO TELL A STORY_01

Chiedo

Anybody could write, if he understood how to sort his thoughts, select the verbs and nouns most fitting.

Anybody, anywhere—in Africa or America South, in Syria or Singapore, in Korea North or Kenya, Karen or Kakuma—could write, a poem or story, if it blazed in him, and the smoke smoldered his heart and incited his thoughts.

He could tell a story.

These sentiments, more or less, a boy, of sixteen or seventeen at the time—an estimation I reached given the vibration of his voice and the density of his beard and the texture of his face and the style of his conduct—infused in me one evening, in the accent of his former country, while he and I sat on a bench, at the edge of Napata grounds, Kakuma Refugee Camp. He was a boy of tall stature, and dark complexion, out of South Sudan, in search of safety; I was a young man of twenty-and-seven, on a mission for my media company, in search of news. He was a boy who had encountered this and that and all, as happens in a zone of conflict; I was a young man who possessed views of life as can be absorbed by kids who live in places devoid of conflict . He was called Biel, and I, then, and even now, Taifa Mkenya.

“My Friend, your work is finished?” said he, on that bench upon which we sat side by side that evening, the third sitting since we met. And the sun was still hot, and the rain was still missing, and little boys were still playing on this ground.

“No, no. I am here for three months more,” I said.

“You say to me yesterday you write for newspaper?”

“Mh-hm.”

“Which one? Me, I hear Nation¸ Standard…and even of outside, like Guardian and New York Times. Which one is—?”

“I don’t work for any of those. Mine is small—it is a startup company. One that is just beginning.”

“Me, I understand. You say you write story of life in this camp, but let me tell you—”

“Wait—” said I; he never allowed me to expound what I did there.

“—no, you wait, my Friend. Me, I read stories on this—” said he, lifting his smart phone and tapping it “—I read stories here. Many is not correct—”

“What is not correct?” I said.

“The stories I read here,” said he, tapping his phone still.

“How so?”

“My Friend. You come here, and talk to one, two, three people. Then write story. But me I live here, many years, since I was like this—” he estimated the height of an infant with his palm, off the ground “—you see. So me I understand. But you come here, talk to small people, and write story which has many wrong. Maybe you only write story of Somalis, or Congolese, or Rwandese, or even of Dinka only. So the story is true on small side and wrong on big side. I—”

“Ok. So, in your view—” said I.

“No, it is not to do with my view. And don’t feel bad, my Friend,” said he, tapping my shoulder, “me, I don’t say you are bad person. I don’t say your work is bad. Me, I know ni kutafuta unga. In Kiswahili you say like that, sindio? You understand? Me, I want to write stories of here, because me I live here. I understand what happen. So I have one beg. Can you help me?”

Biel wanted to learn how to tell a story, and I told him that I’d share with him what I knew of the craft. To begin, we agreed that he’d write a sample story and present to me there on the bench, at 6pm, the following day.

We met the following evening, and after greetings, sat on the bench. He handed me his exercise book, and I perused his writing, which he scribbled in pencil. It began this way:


TO TELL A STORY_01

Every ear, hear, hear. One early morning, in the town of Malakal, the morning not very cold and not very dark, Gat come down from his home hurriedly-hurriedly. His home was on top of high land and he was going down to the White Nile. There was big smoke come out of his home, going up. But the smoke was not of fire of arson, or of fire of SPLA, or of fire of Nuer White Army…the smoke was of cooking, cooking by his mother. But Gat would not wait for breakfast, because he was going down the Nile to Lul, with his friends Adut, Luok and Deng.

There was no any war in the country of South Sudan; all people was peaceful and all places quiet of gun ’twas’ and bomb ‘booms’, and Gat was going to Lul to bring back his sister who run from war there in Malakal in 2013. Gat had ask Adut, who was beautiful girl of 21, to take him to Lul, because she know the way. She was Dinka from Lul, and she come to live in Malakal because of work of her parents, and she was studying at the University in Malakal, before war start. Gat had also ask Luok, who was young man of same age as himself, to go with him to Lul. Gat also ask Deng, who was one time boyfriend of Adut, to also come, because his sister who run to Lul, liked him. Luok was a short and quiet man of Nuer; while Deng was talking man of Dinka. All these three friends of Gat lived down the slope, and near the bank of White Nile, and Gat was going down this morning to meet them, so they go to Lul one team. But Adut knew only she was going with Gat, and Luok knew only he was going with Gat to Lul, and Deng knew only he was going with Gat. Why Gat did not tell each of them who else was coming, this story will answer. As I say before, the morning was not very cold and not very dark, and Gat come down from his home hurriedly-hurriedly…

I had flipped two pages, and paused there. “Biel,” I said, “is this a real story, or fiction?”

“My Friend,” he said, “is imagined story. Not true. But me I have friends called Adut, Luok and Deng here in camp.”

“Ok. Listen, first of all. For any story you want to tell people, you must be passionate about it. Very passionate—”

“Me I love this story—”

“Just, just listen.”

“Eh.”

“You must enjoy telling it. That way, your listeners—or readers, will love it too.”

“Eh.”

“Tell me, this story here,” said I, holding the book to him, “what is it about?”

“Is about a boy called Gat in Malakal. One morning not very cold and not very dark, he come down from hill hurriedly-hurriedly.”

“Ok. Is it—is it…no, tell me this, in short, what does it entail?”

“Is about a boy in Malakal. He go to Lul one morning to bring back his sister who run from war.”

#To be continued…

A week goes and languages grow; my stories so.

[The typer of these words is a breaker of English. Creator of words. Attempter of waggish things. Marveler of nature. Enjoyer of life.  Lover of strangers. Taster of cultures. Author of Tom James. Editor. Snap-shooter. Storyteller. Future husband. Teacher. Learner. Soon a traveler]