Monday, 28 May 2018

The Cyclic

Photo Courtesy!
The sound of gunshots reverberated in my ears and rang out far across Mathare valley towards Utali College. It was followed by dead silence for a few minutes save for two dogs that barked across Juja road in Eastleigh. The silence was short-lived then again gunshots came back thick like winter hail.
It was on the evening of Friday the 11th August 2017 a few minutes after the presidential election results were declared showing the incumbent having recaptured the seat. Youths had come out in opposition strongholds to protest what they claimed was a stolen election.
Juja road was impassable, youths had barricaded the road, tires were burnt and the light from bonfires shone towards the slum kissing away the darkness that had started setting up on thin corridors between corrugated iron sheets and mud walled small dwelling cubicles. Chants from the malcontent youths kept growing louder and louder as the crowd kept soaring.
The anti-riot police arrived and a confrontation ensued. The rioters who were in hundreds were overpowering the cops, totalling about two dozen. Stones were hurled at them and in retaliation tear gas canisters got lobbied, those who were unlucky and got cornered tested the sweetness of the clubs the red-berets boys walk around with.
I watched all this drama unfold through the window from my room, a single room on the second floor of an old dilapidated apartment towering above old shanties that characterise Mathare slum. From my window I could see Kiboro Primary School compound beneath on my left side where most of the demonstrators ran towards after the demonstrations turned into a riot and violence erupted. The demonstrators ran in panic, scattering from the brutal police like cockroaches at the flash of a light.

It was my eighth month in this apartment and in Nairobi. I had rented the room immediately I got admitted for a Diploma in Information Communication Technology in Nairobi Technical Training Institute in January. It was relatively cheaper to rent a room outside the school than reside in school hostels.
Given my background and the struggle my parents were going through to put me through school, I decided to look for a cheaper place to put up and that’s how I ended up in Mathare.  From Mathare to school which is sandwiched between Park Road and Ring Road in the outskirts of Nairobi, I could walk, a distance of about two kilometres.  
Many other students lived there, others in Huruma, Eastleigh and Ngara. Most shared a room. This made them save, one could pay rent while the other took care of food. In some instances you would find as many as four or five boys sharing one single room. That’s how people survive through school. I paid rent of two thousand shillings for my single room. No one had won my trust yet so we could cost-share.
I had however met Ochola the previous semester and we had become campus lovers, sort of. I liked him and he liked me too. Ochola was a final year Petroleum Management student. Just like myself, Ochola was from a humble background. We shared a lot, we did supper together most of the evenings before he would leave for his room in Huruma, a half a kilometre from my place. Some evenings we would talk till late and I would allow him to spend at my place, we had become inseparable in just a few months. 
Ochola had a roommate, Kiarie. They were classmates and good friends, they were so close and Ochola always talked about his friend. A few weeks before we broke for the August holidays, Ochola and I had a lengthy discussion about our future together. Didn’t I tell you I loved him? I did, very much, in case you forgot.

Kiarie had a girlfriend, occasionally when she came to visit, Ochola would be exiled to my place. During one of the discussions Ochola said they would talk to Sandra, Kiaries’ girlfriend so we would start staying together. I liked the idea, she was a cool girl and I wouldn’t mind her being my roommate. Besides we had started being close due to proximity and common purpose. Sandra was from a better-of-family by look of things, she stayed in the school hostels. Peer pressure was however taking a toll on her and she really wanted to move out like the rest of us, get freedom and visit her boyfriend whenever she felt like.
This arrangement was perfect and it would work to our advantage - to my advantage of course. I couldn’t wait for the electioneering period to end so we would start this arrangement. An exchange program.
During the last two weeks of the semester we temporarily started living together unofficially. We became like two close knit families, the Ocholas and the Kiaries. I could make dinner one day and Sandra would reciprocate in the boys’ place the following day. The last two Fridays we went out together, Sandra sponsored the outings.
My mum is a mitumba vendor in our rural local market in Meru, she occasionally travelled to the city and would spend at my place. She would wake up at 4am, head to Gikomba to restock her merchandise before travelling back to Meru. During those nights that mum would be in the city, Sandra would be forced to go back to her room in school.
We spent the weekend before election in my room, the four of us. We shared a lot about ourselves and even set a date after the short holiday when we would help Sandra move to come stay with me. They were all to travel on Monday to their rural homes to vote the following day on 8th of August. I chose to remain behind, not because I wanted to but because I didn’t have bus fare. Besides, mum was coming to Nairobi the following Sunday. I lied to my friends that I had registered to vote in the city, I never wanted to bother them. I hate people pitying me, I really do.
On this particular Friday, everything took a new twist. The quite place I had called home for almost eight months turned into a battle field. The running battles between the police and the angry rioters turned chaotic in my very own glare. At one moment the police started firing live bullets in the air to scare away the crowd.
I remember seeing people lying on the road, helpless. Others scampering in all directions. I saw neighbours close their houses and run for their safety. I couldn’t understand where they were running to and why. I felt I needed to run too. I hurriedly stepped out of my skirt and wriggled into my pair of jeans. I put on my running shoes, locked the door behind me and as I bent to do the laces just on the doorstep in the verandah hell broke loose.
A heavy thing hit me on my left side sending me to the ground. I felt a sharp stabbing pain inside my ribs before I passed out.
I woke up the following day in Kenyatta National Hospital where I had spent the night in a ventilator to aid my breathing. It is then that I learnt I had been hit by a tear gas canister that left three of my right ribs fractured.
I was wheeled into theatre that evening to go under the knife in what the surgeon explained was a rib plating exercise that involved realigning ribs and bridging breaks with small, contoured titanium plates and screws, much as plates and screws are used to fix breaks in arms and leg bones. These surgical terms sent shivers down my spine. I prayed as I lay on that four wheeled stretcher and wished my mother was there by my side. 
I regained consciousness after anaesthesia and was taken to the ward to recuperate. All this time I had not seen any familiar person.
The third day on Sunday as I woke up from an afternoon nap, I was greeted by the presence of my mother, tears rolling down her cheeks. I couldn’t tell for how long she had been standing there waiting for me to open my eyes and reassure her that I was alive. I wished I could stand and give her a warm hug, but there I was, all I could do was just stare blindly and as if in solidarity I opened my tears tap too.
‘Kaimuri my daughter, are you okay?’ Mum asked amid tears.
Words could not come out of my mouth for reasons unknown to me. I however nodded to signal that I was okay.
Mum had not known about my being in hospital until she had gotten into the apartment I lived in and a neighbour narrated to her about the chaos that had erupted on Friday. It is then that she launched a search mission that led her to Kenyatta Hospital. She had come for her normal restocking trips in Nairobi unbeknownst to her of her daughters’ predicament.    
A week later, I was still in hospital recuperating. My family came to see me every day. Mum had temporarily moved to my place so she would save on travelling costs to come and see me in Kenyatta.
The chaos that had led to my hospitalization had lasted for only a day and everything had gone back to normal.
Kiarie and his girlfriend Sandra came to see me during my second week in hospital, a day before I got discharged. I asked them about my boyfriend Ochola. I had not talked to him since that fateful day. My phone had disappeared in the mishap. They told me he was doing well and had not gotten back to the city. I really felt I needed to talk to him. How I missed him! I asked Kiarie to call him and he said he had called a few minutes earlier and his phone was off. He promised to try again before they left. He however assured me they had talked in the morning and that he was doing fine and still upcountry.
The quick glances the two exchanged followed by silence got me worried. I sensed something was amiss but I just ignored. We talked for hours about so much. I reassured Sandra that we would help her move once I got out of hospital.
Later, after they left thoughts about Ochola filled my mind. I couldn’t get him out of my head. When mum showed up that evening I borrowed her phone and tried calling his number that I had memorized uncountable times. It was off.
It got me worried. He never switched off his phone. Why had Kiarie and Sandra exchanged weird glances when I asked his whereabouts? Mum noticed that I was uneasy and asked about it, I assured her all was well. She later left, and was to come for me the following day so we would go home.
We spent the following night in my room in Huruma. Sandra and Kiarie passed by to see me. A neighbour came by to see me as well, she narrated to us how they had found me half dead on my door step about an hour after the running battles between the police and the demonstrators had ceased. A teargas canister lying beside my motionless body.
“By the time we called the Médecins Sans Frontières headquartered right across the road, we thought you were dead. We actually called them to come collect a body, all along we thought you had left us. The paramedics arrived in a few minutes, confirmed you were alive before they whisked you into their waiting ambulance and spent off amid the screeching tires and the keening wail of the siren. One of the paramedics told us that you had been severely injured by the impact of the canister that had broken against your body and that you had also choked from its smoke, he added that if we hadn’t called when we did, you could've died. We thank God you are here with us now, we really do” She narrated. “I am really sorry and wish you quick recovery. Apologies for not having come to visit in hospital, financial constraints wouldn’t let me to. I however got regular reports on your recovery journey from your mother” Concluded mama Naliaka.
We entered a phone selling shop next to Accra Hotel in Nairobi’s busy Tea Room Matatu terminus the following morning. Being a Techno freak that I am, I settled for an ‘L9 Plus’ that saw mum part with a cool fifteen thousand. I replaced my phone line in the very shop before we finally jumped into a Unique Shuttle matatu bound for the place of my birth. I sat two seats behind mum.
Immediately the journey kicked off, I embarked on assembling my phone, oblivious of the six hour recommended charging time before use. I worked on the settings after inserting the sim card on its rightful slot. First to download was Facebook app that I immediately logged in to without wasting time. Notifications popped up on top of my screen thick and fast. People had really missed me, I thought to myself.  
I gave the phone time to stop buzzing from the many notifications before I could start checking them out. I opened the first notification and it was something posted on my TL that read, “I am deeply saddened by the news of your loss. I pray that God will grant you the strength needed to get through this moment of your life. My most sincere condolences” I read this statement severally, I thought someone had misinformed people that I had died.
Before reading another notification, I remembered I hadn’t tried calling Ocholas’ number. I hurriedly dialled the number and it was switched off. It is then that I thought of in-boxing him on Facebook and find out if he would respond. I went to his timeline and I couldn’t believe what I saw. ‘RIP Ochola’ was the first thing I remember seeing before I unleashed a very loud scream.
The scream caught everyone in the matatu unaware. By then, we had reached Makutano. I half fainted but I could hear people talk, I heard echoes of mum shouting my name, Kamuri! Kaimuri! The matatu pulled besides the road and I heard people carry me out of the vehicle and started resuscitating me. I was back to normal a few minutes later. The driver offered to drive back to Thika so I would seek medical attention but I refused. I knew I was not sick. Mum told them that I had been discharged from hospital the previous day and they were all so sorry. The journey to Meru continued. I switched my seat with a girl who was seated next to mum so I would be near her. I leaned on my mums shoulder and within no time I went to slumber land.
Mum woke me up when we got to Mwea. It is then that I learnt she had known why I had screamed and suddenly passed out. The lady I switched seats with collected my phone that had fallen beneath my previous seat and she saw the RIP thing and gave it to mum to read. She asked me about it when I woke up and we talked, she comforted me and assured me that all would be well.
Life lost meaning, I felt completely lost in that void. I never knew what to do or who to talk to. I never knew Ocholas home neither had I met any of his relatives. I had however talked to his brother a few times through his phone. Whenever he would call, Ochola would always hand me his phone to say hi to his brother.
Sandra and Kiarie had attended Ocholas burial which had been on Thursday the 17th of August at their home in Siaya. They wouldn’t have told me about his death due to my situation when they had visited in Hospital.
Death is so unfair, so cruel. I questioned God. I wished I had died as well. Why would bad luck follow me wherever I went? Why snatch him from me when I desperately needed him by my side? Nothing was making sense to me then. All I could think of was how my life would be without Ochola and the many plans we had together.
Ochola was shot on his chest on Saturday the 12th, a day after I got injured. I later learnt from Sandra when she called. He was among the youths who were protesting in Siaya after the announcement of the presidential election results the previous day. He breathed his last in an ambulance as he was being taken to hospital. Two other young men died in the skirmishes and several others left with serious injuries after the demonstrations turned violent and police aimed at the demonstrators.
On Sunday the 3rd September, two days after the presidential election was annulled by the Supreme Court, Kiarie, Sandra and myself travelled to Siaya. I needed to visit Ocholas grave to draw some sort of peace and contentment.
Looking at the fresh grave was unfathomable. I cried my heart out. It is all I needed at that time, crying over his grave. I felt by doing so my chest would feel lighter. His family and neighbours were awed by my doings. I rekindled memories to some who had started adapting to the situation. Tears rolled down their cheeks. For a moment I forgot about myself and felt sorry for them. If I am feeling the way I am and I have known him for less than a year, how about these people who had known him for the 21 years that he had lived? It must have been hard for them, especially his mum and the other family members.
The school reopened after the election break but I did not find it worth to report back. I had lost interest in everything. How will I cope in that school without Ochola? My parents beseeched me to go back but I didn’t hear their annoying pleadings. I stayed at home and kept to myself most of the time filled with the emotional turmoil of sudden, unexpected loss of Ochola.
When loved ones are taken by death we come to recognize that this world can be a very unsafe place to be, and that the plans and dreams we have for today or tomorrow can be shattered at any second by a random act of nature, a violent act of people we don’t even know or just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We are forced to see how brutal our world can be and how fragile our lives are.
When my parents realized I had completely given up on education and that I harboured no signs of ever going back, they organized for my things to be transported from Nairobi to our home. This only meant they had completely given up on me in regards to education.
I joined mum in her mitumba business. It’s therapeutic working in the market interacting with all walks of people. It makes me forget the misfortunes that had befallen me. It is in the market that I find solace and I am slowly healing and recollecting myself.
My resolve to put this down came to me the other day after watching the momentous handshake between the president and the opposition leader at Harambee house. How I wish and pray that justice for those who lost their lives and those injured during the electioneering period is part of what they discussed. How I pray that the handshake acts as a ceasefire for the cyclic ethnic hatred and post-election skirmishes we experience after every five years robbing us of our loved ones.
By writing this I feel a sense of relief. Every character I press on this keyboard is like a tablet going down my throat towards completing the dose for my healing. I will not let this situation hold me back anymore, it is for that reason I’m picking back the pieces and I am working towards going back to school in August. I have learnt that we are much more than the pain and the struggle that we go through.

For you my love, Ochola, I know I have let you down, for that I am deeply sorry. I will make you proud moving forward. I will keep fighting for all the dreams we shared. For justice and for unity, I will fight. For equality and equity, I will fight. 

In the words of Faith Evans, ‘One black morning when this life is over I know I'll see your face.

Playing on my stereo, "I'll Be Missing You" Puff Daddy Ft Faith Evans

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The Show

It was the second term in form two and the Meru ASK show was due. We paid a fee of three hundred shillings. 
This amount included fare, gate entrance fee, half loaf of bread and a 300ml soda. 

The typical food high schoolers were then subjected to whenever out of school for a funkie. I don’t know what students eat nowadays, maybe the Dynamic Duo through CS Matiangi supply them with Brookside milk and KDFs replacing the sodas and half loaves we so religiously loved and always looked forward to – Kwanza the fresh mafuko bread! Wacha tu!

Being the first time I was to attend an agricultural show, I was super excited and so were most of my classmates. During my primary school years we didn’t get an opportunity of making it there. A couple of my classmates were however used to it. My seatmate, Alfred gave me endless escapades of what really happens there. I couldn’t wait to finally set my eyes on all the things he kept talking about.

‘The Christ Way’ pulled up in the compound and parked beside the notice board ready to ferry us to the show ground. Behind the wheel as usual was ‘Pastor’ – A very cool chap. 

‘The Christ Way’ was a twenty something seater mini-bus matatu that plied the Meru – Maua route. Sky Blue in colour. It doubled as our official school bus. Despite it being a twenty something seater, it used to carry a whole lot of us – talk of forty something. That was before the defiant NTSA came into being. 

Look, we didn’t have a boo (School bus) though we paid for it for the four years and left without having set our eyes on it. They later bought one after we left and I feel jealous any time I see it on the road. One day I met it packed somewhere and I was contemplating removing one tire to compensate the amount I paid. Evil thoughts there, shindwe! 

Back to the story.

I sat between my two good friends Alfred and Peter ‘Kaleft’ in the bus, who had both been to the show ground several times before. Curiosity almost killed me before the journey of less than forty five minutes to Mutindwa came to a halt. We alighted at the show ground main entrance where we were made to line up and got issued with tickets that our teacher instructed we keep safe or else we risked being whisked off should we be found without one. 

The place was so packed and dusty and immediately the picture I had formed in my mind of this fancy, posh heaven-on-earth place changed. I hated it the first instance, hate at first sight. I let my feelings known to my buddies, and, alas! Kaleft came up with a quick suggestion. “Why don’t we stroll to tao and waste a few minutes there” This suggestion came in handy since I hardly knew town. This was an opportune moment to know every corner of Mutindwa o Kangaangi. Off we went. 

We walked all the way from Gitooro to Town, the three of us. We all had a few shillings we had saved to spoil ourselves. On arriving at the main matatu terminus, we were so worn out, hungry and thirsty. We grabbed some roasted maize that were being sold by the road side to quell our rumbling tummies. To lubricate our throats that were now rendered dry by maize, Alfred suggested that we drink something that would quench the thirst and at the same time make us a little high. Talk of killing two birds with one stone.

I must confess that I had never touched anything alcoholic before. My liver was such a virgin. The virginity that was now staring at being broken in full glare of town and all its inhabitants. Ashamedly I was in school uniform. I never wanted to portray my weakness and naivety to my friends and so I lied that I also drink booze once in a while. Besides I was in that adolescence stage where you have to prove your manhood to everyone by even doing stupid things.

We took one corner, a second one and a third one and in a few seconds we found ourselves in this shanty den behind Mwalimu Sacco building. We met several other students from different schools holding big cups filled with some yellowish concoction that they were gulping to quench their thirst. We sat in a bench and a fine looking girl (everyone in skirt looked beautiful during adolescence years) poured the concoction for us. We did two cups each. By the way the substance was sweet. It was made of honey or sugarcane I assume. I dared not ask my friends what it was fearing I would look naïve. We paid and off we went. I started feeling weird and seeing everything in pairs but I acted strong and walked anyway. 

We arrived at Makutano and my two friends complained how that thing was not strong and that we needed to add something as top up before going back to the show ground. I remember us going to a shop near Hotel Three Steers and Alfred ordered some three sachets that I later learnt was sapphire. He handed me one. I observed what they did with theirs and without wasting time I followed suit. That thing was bitter I tell you, bitter than Uganda warragin. We walked for about fifty meters or so and my thin legs couldn’t carry me any further. My friends helped me cross the road and placed me in a shade under a tree where I blackouted. 

They woke me up an hour or so later, bought me a bottle of water and I came back to my senses. Luckily no one from our school saw us. We continued with our journey to the showground. On arrival I can’t remember seeing the dust that I had earlier seen in the morning. We went straight to Omega one disco where we danced ourselves to exhaustion.

The things I witnessed school boys and girls do in omega one left my mouth wide open. Things I can’t dare print here. When we had enough of the dancing and watching free ‘movies’ in Omega it was now time to move out and visit other areas that I had heard stories of. We stepped out and got shocked it was almost getting dark. We ran towards the gate to look for our school mates so we would not be left by the bus. We found a bunch of boys from our school at the gate in the company of Mr Karaiku and Mr Muchena. We were informed that the bus had already made two trips to school and by then it was on its way coming to collect us – the final trip.

Traffic had started building up due to the many buses that had come to pick students. Mr Muchena said we walk to Shell petrol station in Makutano where we would wait for the bus. While at the petrol station some boys had an altercation with the touts at the stage and they started pelting stones towards our direction. 
I remember Mr Muchena asking his colleague, “I baaû bau bakwelia nkomongo?” (Who are those hurling stones?)
“I makanga” (It’s the touts) Karaiku answered.
“Aî makanga ka batîkûmenya inya nthaka ii chiakwa I makanga, nûkwenda mbeere caa?”(Touts? Don’t they know my boys are touts too, should I tell them to retaliate?) 
He then turned to us and said. “Kabûkûûrwa I makanga? Kinya buî oyei african nguruneti bûbeelie” (How dare you be beaten by touts, pick African grenades and hurl at them as well)
Whatever those touts got that evening I don’t think they ever came back there.

And these two teachers were funny. They spoke/insulted in kimeru whenever they got annoyed. Karaiku was an English-lit teacher, he never taught me though I heard stories from those he taught. He would always use this phrase, “I’m not your girlfriend whom you keep on telling itaitia înaînama!”

Muchena was even worse he taught me chemistry in form four and the insults he would hurl at us are unmentionable. He once gave us a cat that some of us scored so dismally and he told us, “In my entire career I have never taught boys to score zero in chemistry iyîyî nchaabu!” 

One day my good friend Kinoti Kajairo and some other two boys were kneeling outside the staffroom waiting for a punishment from Mrs Nthamburi (Kiyogi) for a crime they had committed. No sooner had Mrs Nthamburi started reading riot to the trio than Mr Muchena appeared and started conversing to Mrs Nthamburi oblivious of the three boys’ presence.
“MaNdam Caro ûkwona mwarî okwa? ûkwona naraumîre tukilikili o ya tûû twenu?” (Madam Caro have you seen my daughter? Did you see she has grown boobs just like those of yours?) He said of his daughter who had come to visit him that day, his index finger pointing at Mrs Nthamburis’ chest. My good friend Kinoti and his colleagues burst into a thunderous laughter. Embarassed, Nthamburi ordered the boys to run to class immediately. Maybe to avoid further embarrassment in case Muchena decided to unleash another bombshell. And just like that the boys got exonerated of the grievous mistakes they had committed against Mrs Nthamburi.

Had we finished with the show story before we got immersed into Muchenas’ shenanigans if I may ask? Oh! Sorry here we go. The bus came for us about 9pm. I went into slumber land immediately I got in. I was tired like hell and couldn’t wait to arrive in school and get to bed. I never got to experience all the good things my friends talked about before we went to the show. All I got to experience was booze and the dance in omega one.  


Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Resist

I wore a broad smile as I ripped open that brown A5 envelope; careful not to tear anything inside, desirous to read the contents therein. 
It had been a long wait to finally know the school I would be joining for my high school education. St. Cyprian Boys High School read the bold address on the top right corner of the letter. 
I did not read further, the address was just enough. I was disheartened beyond words. I had not chosen that school in the first place for two simple reasons.
One, the school was only separated by a small road from my primary school. Occasionally when you hit the ball hard it found its way into St. Cyprian compound. Joining the school would simply be like finishing class eight and joining class nine in the same school. I felt that I needed to go far from the village, I had good marks to earn me a place in a different provincial school. There is no way I was joining this village school, provincial or no provincial, Period! 

Two, besides this school being in the village, the tales we heard about it were terrifying. St. Cyprian Boys is the former St. Kizito where 19 girls were brutally killed by their fellow male students in July 1991 (May their gentle souls R.I.P). Stories went round that at night when students visited the washrooms they would witness 19 girls dancing. There was another story about goats having been spotted smoking in the compound at night. These and many other stories made me get so scared of joining the school.

I waited for one more week and I received no other single letter. Mum insisted that I would join the school that my marks had earned me but I protested. By the way about 10 of my classmates had received admission letters to the same school as well. They all had reported except me. I vowed to stay strong and resist.

I refused completely to join school even after mum bought everything that was required and the reporting deadline kept drawing near. 

Dad arrived one day late into the night from his work place. News of me refusing to join school had reached him all the way in Maasai Mara. We all had no idea that he would be coming, we didn’t hear him arrive only to be greeted by his presence when we woke up the following morning. My dad is a man of few words, after breakfast I hurriedly left the sitting room to the kitchen so he would not ask me questions.

About an hour later, he came out, called me and asked me to get prepared immediately and wait for him to return from wherever it is he was going to.  

Me-think he was headed to his workmate’s homes to deliver long letters they had written to their spouses declaring their love to them and their kids. Dad wrote lengthy letters that he too sent his workmates to deliver to mum that she would occasionally request me to read for her. 

I remember his usual opening line, and he wrote in fine Kîmîrû (Kî-tiania), “Mbere buru i nkeethi inyingî muno ya mûthanga ywa îlia kana ya nyonyoni chia îwûrû. Ingwîtîkia bûî babeya na Ngai nabwîkîte bweya. Inyani ndî ûmweya………” I miss this! Next time I am home, am gonna ask mum if she has a copy. I would love to keep one.  

Mobile phones were unheard-of those days save for a red telecom booth that was on Jomugas’ verandah in Mûrîrî. Dad would call sometime and request whoever who answered to come to our home to announce that he would be calling at exactly six in the evening. 
We would all bathe and make our way to Mûrîrî after school and after mum exchanges some pleasantries with her better half, she would then request us to line up and say hi to the king of our little jungle. 
It felt heavenly to talk to dad over the phone. He would ask us what number we were and the present we would like him to buy us. I always said a bike and he would assure me that he would bring me one every time. 
He never said NO. To date I have never received that bike, but that promise and assurity from him kept me working really hard. (Muntû umûtane ateonakia aana baawe kîrina. Atibaîraa nkûûmbwa).

I digress!

I didn’t dare ask a question of where we would be destined to. Your guess is as right as mine. It was evidently clear I was not going to spend one more night in that compound. 

He came back in the afternoon and after lunch they sat me down in the sitting room, him and mum. They lectured me on how to behave in school, working hard and several other topics I can’t remember. The question of me refusing to join school was never brought to the table. I did not utter a single word the entire time the lecture lasted.

Mum escorted us for about 300 M and walked back home. Maybe she thought we would board a Matatu to school. Wapi? I carried the box on my head all the way to school. On arrival we went to this small office that hosted the boarding master Mr. Nyagah. I met some other 2 boys who were also being admitted at that very moment. 

There was no trouser that would fit me due to my small size. Mr. Nyagah allowed me stay in my civilian attire till the end of the week when my size would be delivered. Before he left, Dad handed me a two hundred note and told me to use it wisely – How on earth should one use a two hundred note wisely gang? Anyhu! We shook hands and he left. 

Mr. Nyagah then called a very big bearded boy and requested him to take me to Lenana dormitory and show me where I would be sleeping. He carried my box and I followed him closely carrying a one inch mattress I was issued with to the dormitory. He was my father guide, I later learnt. Sharu was his name, he was a Muslim of Somali origin and in form three. He was kind hearted and he took good care of me. He allowed me put my box next to his, a place that was reserved for only form threes and fours. My box permanently stayed in that very spot for the entire four years I spent in that school.

Form one was really tough for me. The food, githeri, was horrible and smelled of paraffin, always. Waking up for dawn preps was a real bother. The bullying was real. When I saw boys in Alliance talk of bullying on TV the other day I was wondering if they had a clue of what real bullying is. 

We were made to do weird stuff. Imagine someone coming to you with a shoe that smells like he works in a morgue puts it on your mouth and tells you to call your mother or sister. You would use the shoe as a phone. This lasted as long as he wished while you are just there helpless choking of that odour smell and the bully is standing right there laughing like he was doing you good.

Others would give us a one shilling coin send us to the canteen to buy them a loaf of bread and demand that we bring them balance. This was to me total madness and every time these things happened I always thought of running away from that school.

At night after preps when people are settling in their beds, some form twos would request a form one to go switch the lights off. As the lights go off he would be hit by all manner of objects in darkness including shoes and avocado seeds amid shouts of, ‘Unazima lights kwani nyanyako ndiye hukojoa kindaruma!

I remember this one time when a form four came to my class and called me. “Mono kuja hapa!” His name was Kibaara.
I was barely 2 months into that school. “I need your sport shoes, we have a game in Maua girls, and I will return them in the evening.” It was on a Friday and they were heading for a basketball tournament. I was hesitant, I loved my shoes and I didn’t want them to play. Besides, they were number six and looking at his feet I would tell they would not fit him. “Acha ufala mono! Come uniwahi dula,” He commanded. I had no option I walked to the dormitory and handed him the shoes.

He stayed with those shoes for a cool two weeks. I reported him to Kaume my neighbour at home who was his team mate and doubled as his class mate. Kaume accompanied me to the dormitory he slept and we met him seated on his bed at the corner in Siberia (A separate room in the dormitory where form fours stayed). When we told him that we had come for the shoes, he removed them under his bed and threw them through the window and told me, “Unafikiria nakula viatu mono, enda okota takataka zako huko!” I cried as I walked out to collect them. Those shoes were barely 2 months old and I had put them on less than 5 times but looking at them they seemed like they had seen better days.

I met Kibaara in Otiende – Langata two years ago and he told me that he is now an army officer stationed at Langata barracks. I hope he applies the same zeal and zest he used in bullying us in dealing with al-shabaab millitants.

Then there were teachers, I will tell you about one here;
Mr Kahura Chokera was my Swahili teacher in form one. He was hated and liked in equal measure. I remember his first lesson on pronunciation, the Kaakaa laini, kaakaa ngumu and the likes after which he gave us the first assignment. Woe onto you if your handwriting was ineligible! The slaps that landed on your cheek were so fierce. “Mono! unaandika kana kwamba ulizaliwa usiku wewe! Nina binti mrembo yuko darasa la sita na ana hati nzuri kuipiku yako!” He would tease us. 

I remember one evening after supper our class was supposed to wipe the tables in the dining hall which we didn’t. The D hall captain reported us to Mr Kahura who was the deputy principal and doubled as the discipline master. 

He ordered us to wash the whole D hall as he supervised. After washing, he ordered the class prefect to go fetch the class list.

He then removed his coat and placed it on the table, removed a bunch of keys from his pants' left pocket and his Motorola phone from the right one and placed them on top of his coat that was now lying on the table. He then removed a whip (Nyahunyo) he had put around his waist like a belt and ordered us to step out of the D hall.

The prefect read the first name, and as he made his way in, Kahura grabbed him by his shorts, threw him towards the table where he landed on his stomach and he gave him six of the best on his now almost bare sitting apparatus. We all froze! We peed right outside that D hall. Most of us were in shorts and nothing else. We thought those who were in trousers and had shorts inside were better of only to be told to remove either of the two the moment their turn came. The rest did not wait to be told, boys stripped in front of others to remove the shorts they had inside their trousers to avoid an extra stroke.

Ntoiti was tall and heavy built, when his turn came, Kahura found him unusually heavy to grab and throw on the table like he did the rest of us. “Ulizaliwa mwaka gani wewe?” He asked angrily. By this time he was sweating profusely. You would think he was getting an allowance for thrashing us.

“1988!” Ntoiti answered.

What? This invited more trouble!

“Baba mzima? 1988 wewe unafaa kuwa umepata jiko na una watoto wanne bwana! Unafanya nini kidato cha kwanza wewe?” He retorted.

Ntoiti was beaten the most. The following day he couldn’t walk. The rest of those he later asked their year of birth the answer was 1990 or 91. 

He caned a whole lot of us, a class of 45 students with an exception of only the prefect. Quick maths tells me he gave 264 strokes to the 44 of us plus of course a miscellaneous of about 50 strokes to those who jumped and slithered on the table and the ‘old’ ones like Ntoiti.

I am as certain as day follows the night that his hand was aching the following day, Akiumia! tunaumia!

The following day we didn’t attend any class, we spent the whole day slashing grass in lower Kasarani (That’s what we called our pitch).

That was the first and the last day I got six (sita) of the best in my entire school life.
Mr Kahura remains one of the greatest teachers I have crossed paths with in my schooling. 

One Friday I was so homesick and wanted to go home so badly. I walked into his office about 4 pm in the evening and asked him for permission to go home. I lied that I had a doctor’s appointment the following day and I needed to go home.

He inquired where my home was and when I told him he requested me to go take super which was usually served at six and then go back after I had eaten. I went back to his office around 6.30 sat and waited for him to finish whatever he was doing. 

He grabbed his car keys and told me, “twende bwana!” He gave me a lift in his Peugeot 404 pickup, KUD and dropped me in Muriri at 7pm. No leave-out chit no nothing, he just told me to report to him first thing Monday morning which I did and we became good friends. A gentleman he was.

He sometimes used to walk a distance of about 2 kilometres from St. Angela’s Girls where his family lived at 4 am to come and wake us up for dawn preps. “Amkeni bwana, nimetoka St. Angela’s sasa hivi na nimewaacha mabinti tayari washaamka na nyinyi bado mnang’orota hapa! Nimewapata kuku barabarani pia washaamka wakala na wakashiba! Amkeni bwana! Eeeeeh!” He would shout. You would have seen the speed in which guys got out of their blankets.

Beautiful memories those are.

I couldn’t have gone to a better school than the mighty Cyprian. The stories that were being told about the school were neither here nor there. The school performed exemplary and had good teachers and students during our time. I know some of you know that for the last few years the school has been performing dismally with last year’s results being the worst. I believe something can and must be done to awaken the sleeping giant. As an alumnus I pledge to join hands with all the stakeholders in finding out what ails my alma mater!   
Long live Cypoh!