I sat there wondering, pondering and searching within me. I didn’t understand my world anymore. My life had changed in a split of a second you could convince me that it was a movie I was watching and not my life. Standing there barricaded by the walls of my new home. All I could see were children; some older than me and most younger than me. I was tired of seeing them, their uniforms and even hearing them speak reminded me of how much of a failure I had become.
I had pictured a totally different life, a life of modernization, freedom and liberty. It was clear to me as light of day that I needed a saviour but this is not how I imagined my story. They said that we all write our destinies, well I had just begun writing mine and I sure hoped that it would be one hell of a story.
See, I come from a very remote village in the rural areas of Kenya. In my home, we knew no luxuries neither did we expect it. My father, the breadwinner of the family lived in a town far away from home. He said he was in search of greener pastures to enable him give us a better life and a promising future. He had secured a watchman job that kept him away from his family; you would think that he earned a lot from his job, little did we know that he only earned peanuts. I had dreams of going to live with my father in the big city, I wanted to explore his new world, to have a feel of the heaven everyone in my village claimed my father lived in. All I could imagine were the busy city roads, the many street lights and lots of people walking in the street. My dream seemed so close yet it was beyond my reach.
I have five siblings and I’m the second child in my family. After my father secured his watchman job, he left us under the care of my mother. My mother had lived in our village her whole life, she had never gone to School and never worked a day in her life. All she knew was how to work in the farm. She was a hardworking woman, a pillar of strength for our family. My siblings and I went to School just close to home. We would always walk there since there were no vehicles in my village. The only vehicles I saw were those that brought mourners to any burial in my village. Burials were sad moments, but for the children in my village; it was a time we anticipated. It was the only time we could see people who lived in the city come down to our village with their big vehicles, fancy clothes and fancy phones. It was our only chance to eat some good food since all we ate at home was ugali and vegetables all year long. We crushed all burials and even slept there so that we could eat some meat, chapatis and rice.
Most of the youths in my village are School dropouts. The ones who were most educated had only gone up to form four level but had never proceeded to institutions of higher learning for one reason or another. I wanted my life to be different. I had heard of stories of the big city from my peers in School. The picture they painted always took me to dreamland and I sure dreamt of going there. I made plans of how I would get there with or without the help of my father. At this point I was ready to quit School and look for a house help job in Nairobi. I didn’t care that I was thirteen years old; all I cared about was making my fantasy a reality.
My parents were typical african parents; they would flog you senseless as a discipline measure. To tell you the truth, I never really comprehended why adults viewed caning as a form of discipline, I never really understood how adults reasoned anyways. I remember my mother beating me for doing absolutely nothing wrong, when she was mad, she let it out on me and I was getting tired of being her punching bag. Sometimes I thought she would flog me when she was mad at my dad. I was being ‘disciplined’ everywhere; both at School and at home. My best friend’s story was no different, we shared our sentiments, our fantasies and dreams; except our dreams of a bright future was quite different from what our parents hoped for us.
A lot of things were missing from my life but I was ready to fix that. Today was going to be the last day that I ever step in any School. I had shared my plans with a few of my friends from School and they promised to keep their mouths shut. In fact I gave them my School textbooks, I wouldn’t need them after today anyways. Tomorrow will be Saturday and come what may, I would be leaving my small, remote and barbaric village for the big city. When I got home that evening I could not help but wonder what would become of my mum after I left. I looked at my five siblings, their jiggers infested toes and fingers preventing them from enjoying the sumptuous ugali and omena that my mother had made for dinner.
Anxiety had got the better of me I could hardly eat. It was hard for me to contain my desire to leave. I wanted to savour that moment right there, to enjoy it, to imprint my mother’s and siblings’ images in my mind because I was darn sure that it would be eternity before I see them again. Today would be the last day that I sleep in our small grass thatched house. I would have screamt out loud at the thought of my new and anticipated life but I was trying to keep my secret; a secret.
The family cock crowed so early that Saturday morning I thought the heavens were on my side. As my mother got out of bed to prepare to go to the farm, I couldn’t help but pray that God would send a saviour on my way. Our closest neighbour who lived several kilometres away from our home had lost his daughter in law and today would be the burial. I knew that his home would be filled with hundreds of mourners, some from the big city and I really hoped that one of those mourners would be my ticket to the big city. After my mother left for the farm, I woke up and sat in the dark, thinking long and hard of the future ahead of me. By the time the sun came up, my plan was solid.
Every Saturday morning my mother would send me to the market to buy some more omena for the family and as expected today would be no different. I only prayed that she would not send my young sister along because it would totally ruin my plans. I went outside to fetch some firewood so that I could make some tea for my siblings and as I swept the ashes off our three stoned fireplace; reality hit me hard that my life would change in a very big way from today. I had the will, I only needed to find a way. After making sure that my siblings had taken their breakfast that is, hot strong tea with left over ugali, I rushed to the river to take a dip; maybe my last dip. I knew I would miss showering in the open river since I had heard stories that people who lived in big towns showered inside their main house; I was curious on how that worked but one thing for sure, I knew I would miss basking in the sun to dry off after taking a bath in the river. Maybe someday, I would be telling my children the tales from their motherland but for now, I was more than ready to say adios.
When I got back home, my siblings were playing in the front yard, I went in and wore my best clothe, it was the dress my father had bought me a couple of years back for Christmas. I then took the twenty shillings and started walking towards the market. As I left, I looked at my siblings one last time, it was clear to me that I loved them more than life and would miss them terribly but sometimes a girl has to do what she has to do. I walked down that swampy road picking and throwing stones; singing some songs in my mother tongue. I followed the route leading to the home where the burial was taking place. The emotional songs that captured my ears assured me that mourners had arrived, so I went to the home and took my place as a mourner.
I stayed there until when the burial was over and when it was time for reception, I knew I had to find food by any means necessary. Next to where I was seated was a young lady with three children. She looked young, younger than my mother so I thought it would be easier for me to convince her to take me with her. I approached her and requested her to help me serve some food. She could see that I was pretty hungry and when I offered to watch over her children as she went to get the food, she had no reason to doubt my intention.
After we ate, we started talking. She was interested in hearing my story, particularly on the whereabouts of my parents and why I had attended the burial without the company of an adult. With all the confidence I could master, I decided to lie. I told her that my father lived in a town far away from home, that my mother had passed on when I was young and my father went on to marry a second wife who was mistreating me and that I had been living with my sickly grandmother who did not take me to School. I went ahead to ask her if she would take me to wherever she was going to. I told her that I was really interested in going to School and that I would be grateful if she gave me that chance.
Sure enough, she seemed to buy my story and she told me to go talk to my grandmother and that she would only go with me after she got permission from my sickly grandmother. So I knew I had to act fast and find someone in the burial who would be my ‘grandmother’ and sure enough after few minutes of looking around, I saw a grandmother who seemed older than my grandmother and I went over to her and requested her to let me help her get to wherever she was going to but first I asked if she could accompany me to meet the ‘aunt’ who was willing to take me to School. She could barely understand Kiswahili so, I had the window in all of this. When I got to where my saviour was, I talked before ‘my grandmother’ did. I told her that my grandmother could barely understand Kiswahili and that I had spoken to her and she had accepted the proposal as long as we promised to return home during holidays.
Lucky for me, she bought my story. They exchanged a few words in my mother tongue then the young woman; who I later recognised by the name Sarah, asked me to accompany my ‘grandmother’ to wherever she was going to and that she would be waiting for me. Oh boy, was I happy! Sure enough we left my village together later that day and went to aunt Sarah’s village. I had no idea where we were but I was overjoyed by my success to leave home. We stayed there for two more days then left for the big city. The journey was fulfilling, I saw lots of vehicles on the roads, lots of buildings, lots of people; I slept severally since the journey was long. We made a stop somewhere along the road and boarded another bus which would apparently take us to our destination. By this time, I really didn’t know much about where we were going, I didn’t even know which town we were going to but I was hopeful that it would be way better than my village.
Aunt Sarah woke me up, darkness was lingering in the vicinity; we had been on the road the whole day and I was so exhausted. We had arrived! I had made it! The buildings around the bus stop were the tallest I had ever seen all my life. I asked aunt Sarah the name of the town we were in and when she said that we were in Nairobi, I could hardly believe her. My dream had come true. We walked along the busy streets. It was noisy, loud, with more people than I had ever seen. The traffic was horrible. We got to a certain stage and boarded another bus apparently headed to Kawangware. Dreams do come true. I thought of how my mother and siblings must be worried ; I almost broke down at the realisation that my father would be made aware of the fact that I was missing. I knew I had to be strong so that aunt Sarah would not realise that I lied to her.
It had now been over a month since my arrival at Nairobi and everything was going according to plan. I lived in a better house than the one we had at home, though it was not the fanciest building but it was way better than our grass thatched house. The food was good, I had not eaten omena for a whole month and I had eaten some foods that I could only dream of back at home. It was not exactly what I had dreamt of from the idea my friends and I had but it was a thousand times better than my house in the village. We had a box with running pictures which aunt Sarah called a television set, it fascinated me alot since I had never seen anything like that before. Aunt Sarah was heaven sent, she had even enrolled me in the same School that her son went to, she treated me like family and I sure felt at home. I had missed my father terribly and the guilt that I felt could not let me rest easy, so one day I asked aunt Sarah to allow me use her phone to call my father. Sure enough she did. I called my dad. He was excited to hear from me. I told him that I was in Nairobi and that I was staying with an aunt I met back in the village. My father asked to talk to aunt Sarah and I let him. I didn’t follow up on what they had talked about on phone.
We had finished eating dinner when I heard some loud bangs on the door. I didn’t make anything of it at first until I saw three men with huge bodies and police uniforms. My heart skipped a mighty beat it almost sunk to my stomach and anxiety took the better of me. For some reason, I was uneasy. They identified themselves then asked us to accompany them to the station. They also told aunt Sarah that she was being arrested for stealing a child. All I could see on her face was shock and disbelief. I felt worse than the devil himself. We barely talked on the way to the station, mind you they arrested aunt Sarah and took her three children along. I didn’t know what to say that would make this situation better so I decided to stick with the story about my mother being dead and me living with my sickly grandmother. We slept in a cell at the police station and after two days we were taken back to the town that was nearest to my village and put in a police cell. The next morning we were taken to another building where aunt Sarah told me that we had been taken to court. I really didn’t understand what was going on, all I remember is a lady at the court called out aunt Sarah’s name then she was directed to stand at a certain place then the lady started asking her some questions.
After we left the court we were separated. Aunt Sarah was taken to a place they called a prison and I was taken to a home with lots of children both male and female and they all wore uniforms. The lady who accompanied me here said its called a juvenile remand home. I don’t know what is truly going on, how long I’ll be here, what will happen to Aunt Sarah; all I know is that staying here is way better than returning home and that aunt Sarah had not taken me against my will. I don’t now how it will play out or who will hear my truth and believe my story. All I know for sure is that it will take divine intervention to get us out of this pit hole. I couldn’t believe how fast my life had come tumbling down; just when I thought I had it in the bag, reality caught up with me.