One day you’ll get to walk through the paths, dusty and beaten, of this village in a remote part of Uasin Gishu County. On that day, there’ll not be anything except orphaned children, neglected mud-walled houses, lands that have been permanently left to fallow and young men wallowing in the fate that has befallen them. They’ll be chewing miraa, while fondling plastic Coca-Cola bottles with clear liquids inside if you peer closely. They (these young men) will be fathers to their own siblings and would be mulling about the day their parents went wrong. Today I’ll do you a favour. I’ll walk you through half the journey. I’ll walk you well in advance before that day comes. Be warned though that this is subject to exaggeration on my part and it would have been really great if you walked it by yourself. Let’s begin the journey.
Here, you will catch a glimpse of lands with cypress trees grown on the edges, pruned to the tip. You will wonder how this is possible and give up when you realize that it is a vanity. ‘There have pruning drones, ‘I‘ll lie to you. ‘Haven’t you seen them?’ I’ll ask to rouse your amusement. Mud-walled houses with rusty tin roofs and many of them grass thatched line haphazardly along the dusty road. Maize plants on these lands speak of neglect. Weeds have choked their growth and most are have very thin stalks with barely anything to harvest. You’ll notice the road painted white from chewed maize stalks. It’s a delicacy during this time of the year.
On the east of this village lies a more affluent village. Large trucks of land where wheat and maize plantations stop your eyes. If it’s your first time, you will find it delightful and you will give in the temptation to take selfies to brag to so many people who don’t know you on social media. Lonesome bricked houses stand solitarily either in the middle or at the edge. There are those who let reason prevail and found it worthwhile to construct their houses close together, but still on their farms. It’s called Chebaon. It would qualify to be a leafy suburb. Let’s call it a leafy village. Yes, Lavingtone.
To the west of Chebaon is Kaoni, where my story is set. A river separates these two villages. Here you will access Kaoni through a dilapidated bridge, constructed when there was still very little difference between the two villages, when Chebaon had very few residents and those who had settled found it worthwhile to have neighbours who they would occasionally borrow each other salt when it became extremely impossible to get to the nearest Kiosk. And they needed a proper bridge. Who would walk through a wooden plank in the dark? The present doesn’t allow that. Chebaon is almost not a village. A village is rather a backward word that denotes a people who are clueless about civilization. People here upgraded their television sets to pay TVs while the other village still is clueless about television. The other village supplies labour to Chebaon. And that’s the biggest difference.
The kids of Chebaon parents attend the best schools that could be found in the region. Kaoni kids attend local primary schools and in Chebaon, the only school which hosts kids from other villages but its own. Chebaon in very simple terms is a home of people who don’t live there.
Across the river, you’ll find grass thatched houses standing like they’ll collapse any minute. Some even have poles placed to support the leaning houses. The mud-walled houses reveal a sorry state. You’ll see kids dressed in rags, which mostly entail an adult’s shirt or sweater, playing innocently outside these houses. They care less, just relishing in their innocence. One will lend a wail to the rather quiet village, having exhausted means of winning a contest against another who apparently is stronger than him or her. An older kid will prevail on the young ones and soon the games go on. They will be engrossed till pangs of hunger cannot be contained anymore. Luckily you won’t be here to see that. I’m just being too generous by telling you this.
One of those mud-walled houses belongs to a village elder. He has many children some his own, some not. The extraordinary thing is he doesn’t care about them. Everybody knows he flogs his wife thoroughly yet they will rush to him with domestic cases. Everybody knows he doesn’t contribute a penny to his children’s upkeep. Their mother can send them away for ages and he won’t badge an eyelid. He could be tempted to ask where they are and the wife’s stern reply would be, “is there anything you want to give them?” He spends all his time away from his home except in the mornings when he milks his cows, (he trusts no one when it comes to his cows.) and when he’s surveying his inherited piece of land, scavenging for something to sell. He is a father, but this title is largely ceremonial. Once he beat his wife senseless, leaving her unconscious and went to tell his kids to go and pick their dead mother.
This elder runs the village. He solves the issues that are way below the scope of the sub-chief. He solves small squabbles that family heads find too tasking to tackle like when the wife wants a more sober approach to their persistent squabbles, sometimes over the excess amount of tea leaves in his tea.
As you walk through the dusty paths, you won’t fail to feel something ominous in the air. People here seem lethargic. They portray a picture of a people who’ve lost hope such that they view strangers with contempt, like they’ve been sent to take away what’s left of them and for them. They seem like orphans. They seem they are scared more by what they know than what they don’t. Their greetings are hurried, like one is a bearer of bad news, of death perhaps.
The animals too, tethered by the road side, have that look of their owners. Cows are herded along the roads. Trees sway sensually to the wind, almost often against its will. Young men will be sitting aimlessly along the road, waiting vainly to ogle at a girl’s posterior. Here girls are mothers, their innocence taken away at the earliest opportunity. Their eyes stare at something invisible, the hands clutching impalpable pain. You will be tempted to look at what they are looking at, may be stretch your hand to feel what they feel when their hands are tightly folded. Nothing will yield more disappointment when all you feel is a rough hand born of many hours foraging for food, for their kids.
The disease is in the air. No one wants to talk about it. I feel it every time I inadvertently stroll through this village. There are people am afraid for, the guys we played football together before I left for where it would be easier to cross to greener pastures. The journey is almost complete. A few days and I’ll be done. I’ll show the homes of my childhood enemies. One time they beat me and ran away. I spent almost all my lower primary break time trying to revenge. It’s been ages since I last saw them. I want to meet them and ask them if they still remember the source of our squabble.
That little squabble is among the minor things I remember. Even the day I was flogged thoroughly for a mistake I’m still trying to fathom to date doesn’t rank highly-part of the minor memories. There was this day when the fight against AIDS was in full swing. It was in the curriculum. It was around 2003 and 2003. The head teacher would gather us at random times and tell us about this disease that doesn’t have cure. There was a song she’d sing.
Tell them about AIDS slowly
So that they don’t say they didn’t understand.
And she did spoke of it at lengths. And more importantly slowly. It got me scared, I don’t know how it struck the rest. I stayed off girls as much as I could. One day the school organized an HIV/AIDs awareness day. We all trooped to a neigbhours house to see for ourselves what AIDS could do to a human body. We saw gory videos, of very thin people whose bones were about to escape from their bodies. Effects of AIDS. We also saw of other sexually transmitted diseases. They were equally gory. Unsightly. Nauseating.
All that and my friends didn’t take it seriously. I wonder what happened to their brains. Now they are chewing miraa, staring at their futures fade away. Like they want to salvage, they clench their fists, gnaw their teeth. But it’s too late.
Tell them about AIDS slowly
So that they don’t say they didn’t understand.
I hope your regrets have this sound track. Wait for your fate. Or guide it to a more favourable ending.