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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]

LAST CHRONICLE OF A NEW WRITER_25

Image: photo

If for a moral teaching, the gods shouldn’t have disposed me to encounter that episode. If for retribution for my misdeeds, the payment surpassed the principal deeds.

I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room down in Dagoretti; now eight months since Jane and I separated. I am not quite in the frame of mind to tell the details of the separation, but I only mention that Fred heard that Jane had given birth to a baby who half resembled him, and half me, and thereafter visited my house to claim his blood. There was a clamor in the house, when Fred came one evening, as Jane swore that she’d never marry him, even if a DNA test should wipe any doubts. In my tribe, people never feud over a baby, for it might spell ruination for the innocent soul. Despite this, it is also law, customary, that a man’s child can never be raised by another man, especially one born out of the circumstances of a love triangle. To shorten this tale about Jane, the three of us agreed to the DNA test, which was conducted a week later. To my relief—I am not sure if this was right—it turned out that Fred was the true father. Jane, distraught, went to her mother’s and has never spoken to Fred since, as far as I know. She has called me several times, and we have talked over general stuff. I have never known if the step I took was the best. We only grow wiser in retrospect.

Anyway, as I said before, I write this last recount with a heavy heart, seated in my room in Dagoretti this Sunday, after leaving the church, where I deposited all my confessions. Yesterday, my crew (Ken, Peter, Eric, Adam and Alex) and I, went to town, to celebrate a huge sale we had made Friday evening. At the end of the transaction, each of us, became entitled to at least two million shillings each, and more to come in the following days. This Saturday now, the day of celebration, Ken, being our supervisor, drove us from the shop there at River Road, to a club in Westlands. And we partied all right, for most part of the night.

On our way back, from Westlands, Adam, who was less drank than the rest of us, drove. He would drop each of us in our estates, and then would ride the car to his own place, and return it to Ken on Sunday. During this drive back to town, as we had to drop Peter somewhere along Jogoo road, we passed through Uhuru Highway, and then turned to Haile Selassie road.

Dear reader, I believe you know that this world carries many surprises within its late nights and early mornings, when the gods and spirits traverse the streets in cities.

The car that we drove in, a white Toyota Harrier, Ken had bought it a week earlier. Who ever knew that it would seem (to the police) like a stolen vehicle? Who ever knew? Ah!

As we coursed through Haile Selassie, I heard a siren warn behind us. In our casual manner, we said the policemen could go sleep hungry, as we wouldn’t hand them a shilling in bribe, for whatever charge they may raise. In consequence, and in playful manner, Adam accelerated the car, and we soon passed under the footbridge near Times Tower, and headed close to the roundabout, joining Moi Avenue.

A bullet, or something like it, blasted behind us. I heard a clink on the back window, and then Adam threw his body upon the steering wheel, and a deafening honking began, as the car careened towards the roundabout. He was dead.

At that moment, none of us knew what was happening, and I at one point imagined Adam to be pulling a dangerous trick on us. But when the car sped close to the roundabout, and the sirens grew louder, I realized trouble surrounded us. In panic, Ken stretched to the steering wheel from the middle seat, in an attempt to gain control of the car. In seconds, the car knocked the bounding of the roundabout, and I believe I was thrown off the car.

The police then must have realized that they mistook this car for a stolen one, else I would have found myself at the Central Police Station—which would have been a better option, I swear.

What happened is, reader, what happened is, I found myself among the dead at the City Morgue.

I am a fan, reader, of the television series The Walking Dead, and I fancy watching the zombies stagger after trapped real characters. I am a fan, of horror movies, and I like to see the lead characters struggle against the bad ones. I am a fan, of dreadful novels, and I revel in reading how some characters suffer at the hands of antagonists.

Let me tell you however, my dear reader, concerning that night I aforementioned, that at the sight of the scene in the morgue, I died. Not in the literal meaning in particular, but suffice it to report that all my senses died, apart from my senses of sight and touch. For a duration that seemed so long, I remained among the bodies, upon which the officers must have thrown me, earlier in the morning. Fear burst my heart, but I couldn’t twitch; sweat poured out of my skin, but I couldn’t wipe it; a word, a cry, a shout, of the screaming and cursing and repenting kind, rose inside my throat, but I couldn’t talk. On my back, as I had laid supine, I felt gummy flesh and fluids associate with my cloth and skin and hair.

I cried in silence, and offered prayers to all the gods of my lineage. I petitioned Taifa the first, first of his name, and asked him to spare my life. I cried in silence, and prayed to the true God, He of the Christians, that He should redeem my life, and thereby spare me the agony of purgatory. I confessed all my sins, all of them, of both omission and commission, and those I might have committed while an infant, and even in my mother’s womb, so that if I should die here among the bodies, I would sit by the right side of the Saints when I cross over on the day of rupture; with the Abrahams, the Moses, the Jacobs and all. I cried in silence, and vowed I would run to a Father of the first Catholic Church I would find, confess my sins and join the brotherhood.

Be careful what you ask for. This statement is recorded somewhere.

I am not sure if the morgue attendants caught my silent confessions; I couldn’t hear the confessions myself, but I said them anyway, in my heart. I am not sure if they heard me, but I recall some hand flung the main door open, as though he (or she) forgot a living soul inside, at which instant some godly strength filled my muscles, and I rose from the pile of the dead, and bolted outside, in the course of which the attendants shrieked and scampered to directions I don’t remember.

I am now nearing the end of this long recount, which I started months ago to speak about my experiences, as a new writer.

It was early morning when I left the morgue. It was very cold outside. And it was drizzling a little.

Soon I regained my sense of location, and I realized I walked near Kenyatta Hospital roundabout. Towards Ngong road I then hurried, and boarded a matatu which contained a few passengers, coming from town. The passengers scrutinized my aspect, and I suppose they suspected I had drank myself to unconsciousness and fell and slept in a sewer hole down in Muthurwa. One of the passengers paid twenty shilling for my fare, as she thought me of the deranged kind, I believe, and pitied me therefore.

Anyway, I alighted at Dagoretti roundabout, and ran to the church behind the shopping centre there. There was a mass going on at this hour, and I burst in through the door, followed the aisle, and knelt before the Father when I reached him at the dais, him who was issuing the sermon now, from which book I can’t recall.  I clung to his leg, and entreated him to pray for me, as I needed massive prayers at once. He never asked what happened to me, but placed a hand on my filthy hair, and prayed a very long prayer, as I had ever heard, hitherto.

Thereafter, feeling relieved and pure, I went and sat on the front row, on a space a choir woman had left for me.

When the mass ended, I united with Father again, at which point I recounted my life experiences, and my experiences as a writer, upon which he advised that I should blog about it, for the sake of other sheep like me.

#The End.

Thank you very much for reading these recounts. You are my fan, always.

Regards,

Taifa Mkenya.

[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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_24

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They say a cat leads nine lives; a butterfly, several; and a true Christian, two: here and hereafter. I do not know about a drug peddler, whom I had become. Anyway, what I had become I didn’t know anymore, in the manner of understanding myself as before. And what Jane might say about my new tendency, I didn’t mind anymore. And what neighbors would think about my abrupt wealth, well…they could have written a gossip column about it, for all I minded.

I worked and walked more at night than day. I slept more during the day than night. I bought a sweatshirt with a hood to cover my head and face, and shades for my eyes too. I walked with my head stooped; and I became wary of new faces, which I often supposed detectives, or avengers, who might have prowled after me, in desire to locate my house, or place of work. These maneuvers I employed, partly out of my choice–for obscurity, and partly  out of a directive from Ken (my supervisor), who oversaw the distribution business.

At home, Jane had become livelier, as she neared the end of her pregnancy term. Three months had passed, since I discovered that  JLK Regional Suppliers Company, for which I had earlier worked as an accountant during the day, peddled cocaine during the night. One of the conditions Ken issued to me after the discovery, included: not sharing with anybody, related to me by blood or spirit (as he knew at one point I went to church once a while). So, when Jane asked where I got all the money, to furnish the house, and buy her a small car, all within two months, I said I had worked harder than any man in the city ever had.

The change in our station inspirited her, and she dropped the militant tendency, which she had acquired not long past.  One night, she said, “Taifa, Bae, what would you do, say…if, for example, ah—let me put it this way. Would you accept a kid that is not yours?”

I said children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t instigate a dispute. She said I had dodged her question. I said again, that children were innocent creatures of God, whose emergence shouldn’t cause a party, to dodge a responsibility upon the other party. She said I had dodged her question the second time, but that it mattered little at the time. In this I read a possibility that the soon-to-be-born baby might be Fred’s, my former roommate. Anyway, we counted down the days, to a week or so.

By now I had acquired a muscle, what you may call ‘financial muscle’; and I did remit funds to my uncle in Maili Tisa, once a week. He would appreciate, and then castigate me for refusing to marry a good girl, whom he and his wife had hunted for me. I never revealed to him, that at the time, Jane had choked me so, that I had not a breathing room, nor decision making capacity, nor any freedom whatever.

About the lecturer, Caren’s husband; our friendship flourished. He gave me, for free, a book he had published, on writing styles. I found it (the book) engaging, and mind-opening. I never discontinued the routine (even in my change of fortune) of writing articles and submitting to the lecturer for review. These later times, I wrote about our drug operations at night: how we, Alex, Peter, Eric and I, and sometimes with Ken himself, drove to Dandora, or Eastleigh, to ferry coke. I wrote about the times policemen would stop us, and one of us, mostly Ken, would leave the car to talk to them. I wrote about the instance when a disagreement arose between us and the guys from whom we bought drugs down in Eastleigh, and Eric chose to burst the head of one of them with a bullet, before my eyes, to scare the rest of them into an understanding. I wrote about how I (using other characters of course) often feared for my life, as we had obtained intelligence, that rival gangs plotted a revenge against us. I also wrote about my domestic affairs; mainly about Jane, and how she had changed, and behaved more wifely. All these I wrote, and submitted to the lecturer myself, without Jane objecting, as she had done many weeks before; and the lecturer said, if I continued with the same fervor, I would make a  fine novelist someday.

The day of labor arrived, one Sunday morning, in the month of October. I drove Jane to a hospital in Nairobi, and admitted her. This being my first experience in childbirth, I called Jane’s mother, that she might apply her experience in this matter. I stayed with my mother-in-law in the hospital till evening. Meanwhile, many thoughts danced in my mind, and the lady noticed my agitation.

“Taifa, it will be fine,” said she.

“Yap,” said I.

“I know you will make an excellent father.”

“Yap.”

I never worried about the success of the procedure and all, to say the truth, but whether  the kid would be mine or no.

Jane became a mother, at 6:45 pm, and at once named the boy, Taifa Jr. And she maintained that that name would stay, even against the playful persuasions from her mother, who hoped the kid might be named after her own father (Jane’s grandfather). The nurse permitted us to see Mother Jane, sometime in the early night.

When I laid my eyes upon her, I felt a different level of reverence for her, that I had never felt before. I saw her as a mother, and not as a wife per se. I felt some form of triumph, and excitement, to have been attached to her.

Then the turn came to look at the baby.

She had covered it in a shawl, everywhere, but its face. I bent to observe its face, and noticed that half of its nose looked like Fred’s, and the other half, looked like mine. Then I scrutinized the lips, and accepted that the upper lip resembled Fred’s, and the lower, mine. I said, “Hello toto, hello toto,” so it might open its small eyes. When it did, I noticed it had a dark left eye, like Fred’s, and a brighter, right eye, like mine. I then searched for one of its hands within the shawl, and said, “Toto, say hi to daddy, say hi to daddy.”

Meanwhile, Jane looked at my face, and all the while said, “Bae, isn’t he cute. Taifa Jr., isn’t he cute?” and I would nod and say, “Yap, yap,” when in truth, a foreign feeling crept up my gut. I found the tiny hand, at last. I fished it out of the shawl, and said, as I looked at it, “Boy, aren’t  you cute?” I observed that its thumb resembled my thumb, and all the other fingers, resembled all the fingers that Fred, my former roommate, had.

I have never thought it possible that a man may at one time in his life need to betray two opposite and strong feelings at the same time. It would work, if a man could split his face into two, I think. In my case, I say, one side of my face, or of my brain, felt the reverence and pride for Mother Jane, and urged me to stay in her life; yet the other side of my face, where my left eye sees from, felt confusion, and betrayal, somewhat, as I found it easier to believe the beautiful boy wasn’t mine. I looked at Jane with both my eyes, and I could see that she received conflicting signals.

“Honey, are you very happy, or very scared?” she said, “Do you need to sit down?”

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_23

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I coiled back into the car and Alex drove on; either Peter or Eric (at the back), having greeted one of the officers through the window.

On this second leg of the drive to Dandora, none of us spoke. I looked straight on upon the tarmac this night, as it raced backwards underneath our probox, and well into my memory. I thought of my folks in Maili Tisa. Uncle, and his wife—and the seven daughters; of what they might say about me, if they knew, that at this moment, I sat in a car that headed to Dandora to ferry Coke. Of how Joan might wail, if she heard that I enrolled myself into a gang. And thus, the story of Teret shot in my mind; the young man whose father owned a big garage in Eldoret town. The story goes: when Teret joined a university in Nairobi to study Psychology, he studied for the first two semesters then terminated that study business. Some people said he’d traveled abroad to continue his study in a foreign university; but my Uncle’s wife, who fellow-shipped with Teret’s mother, said he did join a gang of robbers in the city, and the police shot him one night in the right thigh, and so he walked with a crutch since.

Then I recalled the story of Debby, which went thus: she left her home, which existed a kilometer from ours, on your way to Eldoret, and she traveled to Nairobi to work as a house-help. She worked for her employer for six months, then one moment, when schools reopened, she thieved twenty thousand shillings, which her boss had entrusted her with, to pay school fees for the son (the employer’s). Her boss, being a rich woman in the city, tracked her with the aid of the police. So Debby had no place else to hide in the city, and she fled to Mombasa. There in Mombasa, the story goes, she joined a nightclub, and danced around a pole for tourists. By and by, a mzungu, the story says, married her, when she’d danced like a snake one night, a deed which impressed the man so. Thereafter, the man bought her a big house in Mtwapa, and furnished it with all the house-things  a woman might desire, which Debby saw and knew of, and a load of drugs in one of the cabinets, which Debby never knew of. The tale goes on to relate, how one night, when Debby’s husband had traveled to Nairobi on business, police officers raided Debby’s house, and searched nowhere else but the cabinet with sacks of Coke. The police hauled her and her goods to the station, and while there, she called her husband, but discovered his phone off, and so has it remained since. Nobody knows what happened to Debby afterwards; if she ended in one of the prisons at the coast, or whether she paid a fine for freedom, anybody could guess.

These stories and more; and agitation, swirled in my mind in my silence, so much so that Alex noticed. He touched my hand, but I pushed his away. Silence then followed, as we slowed down, on account of the traffic, as we had reached Dandora; and Alex begun to navigate to its dark outskirts. At a dumpsite we then stopped, and Alex turned off the headlamps; then he, Peter and Eric exited the car, having instructed me to remain inside. A while later, another can drove up the same route we followed, and stopped behind ours, then switched off the lights. What exact place we stopped I couldn’t tell; in front of our car however (what setting I had noticed as we drove in earlier), the dumpsite existed; on one side, a high wall; on the other, a fence of old iron sheets; and darkness everywhere. Away from here, you could see lights twinkling on the buildings yonder, and hear hooting of vehicles and the din from nightclubs.

While seated in the car, I wondered what my role entailed in this transaction, and what I might relate to the police, should they ambush this party, on account of a betrayal, from…from I don’t know whom. At one instant my hand reached the steering wheel, that I might honk with all my fear and might, and thus reveal our hideout, and thereby secure my escape amid the confusion; but my hand froze upon the wheel, when I imagined that such an alarm would startle everybody, and no one ever wants to scare a criminal who placed a finger on a trigger.  I was crushed by fear; I was crushed by tension; I was crushed by apprehension, that I began to self-talk:

“O, Taifa. Son of Mkenya, grandson of Mkenya the First. I am a gangster.

“O, Alex, friend in my youth. A brother in all times. You have betrayed me?

“Eh. Alex Matano, son of Matano, when did it start?

“Tell me then, tell me now, tell me how—” I saw flashlights sweep across the darkness.

Occupants of the second car had discharged themselves from it, and I now caught murmurs and grunts. I turned my neck to spy on them, and counted five people in total, as far as I could note, whenever a flashlight blinked, as to illuminate a packet of Coke, or a bundle of cash (which I saw Eric hand the other two fellas at the end of this transaction). At the end of it, I heard the boot of the car fly up, and packets of substance drop in, after which a hand shut the boot close, boop!

My colleagues returned, and entered the car; and this time, Eric Kama would drive. As he ignited the car, he turned to me, under the light in the car, and said, “You are one of us now. You are part of the family. Only death gets you out if it, nothing else.” I understood him well, as he meant that the family possessed the capacity to track me wherever in the country, if I ever should disclose what nature of transaction I witnessed tonight, to any soul. I turned my face away, and out the window, and wept. We left the site first, and had driven for a few minutes, when we perceived a gun shot behind us; and I figured one of the two fellas we’d transacted with, had murdered the other. Alex, Peter and Eric, began to laugh.

#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]

CHRONICLES OF A NEW WRITER_22

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In a marriage, as in any other engagement between male and female, whether formal or come-we-stay-put, it is not always Valentine. I arrived at this conclusion months after Jane Shish had revealed to me her pregnancy, by me. During this period, our relationship had mutated into something else, which drained my emotions and altered my sanity. Since the moment she caught wind from Maili Tisa that the folks there wanted to fetch a wife for me, as they remained opposed to my marrying a Nairobi woman; Jane limited my communication with them. She stayed with my phone, and checked any logs whenever I received a call or message, when she delayed in the bathroom or somewhere else.

Further, she whined that we needed to get more money, in readiness for the baby, who’d come in two months. This meant that I should press Ken, my supervisor, to raise my pay, or hunt for another job, which would pay more, or get an extra gig on the side. This pressure discomfited my life in that house, and I found a way to talk to the folks at home about it, by means of Caren’s phone, which she gave me in secret. Whenever I talked to Joan (Uncle’s last daughter), I told her I didn’t understand how I ended up living with a lunatic, in the name of a wife. And she would tell me that I complicated the whole situation, when the option of walking out of the house at once, existed. In my response, I told her that the wearer of the shoe knows where it pinches most; that I couldn’t walk out, without considering the repercussions. What if the baby was indeed mine? What if Jane should drink rat poison, as she had threatened, should I abandon her?

These worries and thoughts thinned my body, I had to belt my trousers tighter, and wear older shirts, which fitted my reducing frame. These developments I wrote about, and submitted the writings to the lecturer, who in recent months, said I had improved my writing. Other times, when he’d marked my work, he would call me to his house on the third floor of this flat, on Caren’s advice I supposed, and ask me how I did. He would then tell me that if I needed any kind of help, be it counsel or else, I should not delay to consult him. I found him an interesting fellow, despite my initial reservations.

I had mentioned before that Ken, my supervisor, had promoted me to a supervisory role, where I supervised some night-time activities at work? Yes. I had now worked for several months in this position, but he hadn’t raised my pay to match the rise; and so I reminded him one Monday evening. Ken said he would raise the pay, and that I should remain patient, as he reviewed my performance, under that probative period. During these night shifts, which lasted from 7 pm to 11 pm, I recorded the number of goods in small cartons that Peter and Eric and Alex brought in a Probox; which goods we then stored in the room behind the shop.

The following day, Tuesday, Ken allowed me to accompany Peter and crew, to wherever they obtained the goods which they brought in to the shop. Alex drove the vehicle, and I sat by him, while Eric and Alex talked at the back. We left River Road, and headed to Dandora. Alex and I didn’t talk at first, but when Alex did, he asked me why I enrolled for the night shift. For the first time, I shared with him my domestic affairs, and told him how Jane suffocated me, and he pitied me so. However, he said I shouldn’t have chosen the night shift business, however much I needed an extra coin. I asked him why. He raised the volume of the radio, so the men at the back couldn’t hear us, and said, “We are going to bring drugs. Cocaine.”

In college, Alex pulled pranks on me many times that I got immune to them. I told him to stop playing with me, as the reasons which directed my decision, meant something to me. At once he fished a small packet out of his jacket pocket, and dropped on my lap. I lifted the thing, and checked it in a subtle manner, so as the men at the back wouldn’t notice. As certain as my name is Taifa Mkenya, I had inducted myself into a gang of drug dealers, where the odds of catching a bullet, or a knife, or a lot of money, or sleeping in jail, remained high.

We came to a police check point as we neared Dandora, and Alex stopped as instructed. Without being discovered, I unlocked the door, and made a start as to jump out at the feet of the policemen; but Peter—or Eric, stuck a cold metal on the side of my stomach, and I at once knew what it meant.

#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]