Limuru

Limuru1

I find myself where many traditionally end up the week after they graduated, in the countryside (ushago) where tall tales of villages gathering to feast and celebrate their sons and daughters achievements stand up well to scrutiny seeing as how folks here really take their time. The landscape outside is a portrait stolen from the textbooks I used to begrudgingly flip through in primary school, endless green dripping down endless rolling hills. I stare at all that green and lose the past quarter century I’ve lived. I lose my name. I am a free entity floating without purpose or history. I forget about the four hour trek it took to get here in the morning or that one hour of that time I spent stuck in a monster of a jam.

It doesn’t last.

I’m reminded quickly of my responsibilities when we pull up into Limuru town. Calling Limuru town a town is unfair to all the other towns. It’s a strange little open market, flanked by shops and the occasional residential building. Everyone here seems to be selling, you could start a drinking game for every person you spot who is actually buying, if you’re for that kind of thing. The stalls spill over from the shade put up to house them and choke the road. Our driver and, coincidentally, the first of my pair of students complains about this fact and leaves his post to raise issue with a lorry driver who’s gleefully slothing up, having gobbled up the last inch of the road. This mistake by my student is about to cost us dearly.

There’s something so gangster about having a badge flashed at you, even if it be a mere municipal officer’s badge. It stirs the resting Kisauni guy inside of me. I might as well have a rolled up joint in my hand and a rusted panga down the back of my pants. But the man behind the badge is uncharacteristically charming for someone doing this job that he spoils the script for such a setup. He’s so lean and sharply dressed might have passed off as a teacher under different circumstances.

‘Why do you park in the middle of the road, kijanaa?’

It doesnt help that I stutter my response a bit when I protest.

‘Tuende ofisini.’

To my relief my student returns imminently but the look on his face tells me he’s not confident about his chances either.

I leave the two in the car to sort things out. Their private congress lasts well over an hour but by the time its over, a ‘fine’ of 8000 is reduced to a quarter that price. I inform my student that he might have well toppled my mother as the ultimate shopping partner when you’re on a budget. The officer even left him his number to call should he ever get troubled by other county officers while in town. Good of him to secure his client as all good businessmen (public administrators)  do.

The whole fracas has taken its toll. We realize quickly that the day has run out on us. My student hits the dashboard in frustration. ‘I’ve never gone a day without making sales, man! Hiyo pesa amekula, what will he buy with it when we’ve been unable to supply the places he shops at?’

Today everyone has something to learn in that case, I muse. As for myself, I have seen both the good and the bad working Kenyans go through less than three days after graduating. I do not look forward to the ugly.

The journey back thus begins amid morale-hitting acceding to defeat, idle reflection and my dreading of the very long commute that awaits me, and my buns have turned into cold hard steel from sitting in a car for the most part of the day but man the view this place offers me!

You know I think I wouldn’t mind getting stuck in traffic here all day.

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Kawangware…

AJAB

A toyota canter is parked on a street in Kawangware carrying the newest wheat flour product to enter the market. We’re sitting inside, the driver and I, while the loader, or ‘turnboy’ in more common euphemisms, totters lazily about the lorry, bored . The salesman am tasked with training to use this software for sales automation is somewhere close but outside our view, spreading the good word to the local residents. He’s hoping they take more than just the good word from him.

Parts of Kawangware remind me of the Kisauni of old. Open sewers, dusty murram roads, hybrid houses composed of cheap aged stone, wood and metal sheets, interspersed occasionally by more modern high rises. A church looms large in the background, the glint of its marble exterior and glass windows hard to miss. At just about every corner, hawkers and ‘mama mbogas’ flaunt their wares, including omenaa…I haven’t seen omenaa in ages.

Droves of giddy goat calves skip about, darting between people and vehicles, and causing aforementioned ‘mama mbogas’ way too much distress.

Our driver has the radio tuned to classic 105 and it’s been bleating the works of Lionel Richie and the Backstreet Boys for seemingly forever. I am lost in my usual random sessions of musing when a man approaches the car and inquires of its contents.

We proceed to perform the grandest pitch to ever be performed, hoping to leave him in no doubt that he should buy one bale or he’d be doomed to a life of misery otherwise.

‘Pastries made from this flour can cure just about any disease.’ I tell the man with a deadpan voice. I’ve been moving around with these salesmen for three weeks now, so naturally I’ve picked a few skills along the way.

‘Your man will never leave you if you use this flour.’ Is what our salesman told a bemused lady we’ve served a few streets back.

For some reason though, our pitch doesn’t work and the man walks away…’I cant buy your product unless it’s really as good as you claim’ He protests

Our driver captures our collective puzzlement and disappointment as he calls back, ‘If you don’t try it, how will you possibly know it’s as good as we claim?’

‘Ako mbele ama ako nyuma?’ The turnboy asks about the very absent salesman, betraying signs of growing impatience. Is he ahead of us or behind?

In another context, the same question can be asked to ask opinion of someone about a second person’s level of affluence, capacity for forward thinking among other things.

The driver assumes the second context is implied. ‘Ako nyuma sanaa’ He replies, shaking his head at the customer who’s rebuffed us. He’s way too behind (backward).

‘Uuh’ the turnboy sighs in exasperation and I almost burst out in laughter.

Ajab2