KISUM

Every town has two names.There is the name that appears in Geography books and maps. Then there is the name by which the locals call their town. Thus the windswept town called Isiolo becomes ‘Siolo’ to locals. The ‘I’ is silent. Wajir is Wajeer. Nanyuki becomes Nanyukii to the locals. Kisumu is Kisum.

You know why locals pronounce the names correctly? Because they own the places. A town’s name may be Anglicized or altered by other tongues but its owners stick to its real name. One of the towns whose owners claim vehemently is Kisumu.

You see, its easy to claim Kisumu. For one, unlike Nairobi, Kisumu is not seething with angry masses-people that seem to be running away from something or everything. Kisumu is made up of people who are at home with themselves. Two, the town is guided by a lord mayor called order unlike Nairobi which is lorded over by some unseen mayor called chaos. Nairobi is too chaotic, like a hospice for the moribund. When chaos gets tired of tormenting the world, they hide in Nairobi. I always wonder how that metro survives with no riots breaking out every day.

Every town has a persona that it presents to the traveller.Machakos is an over bleached slay queen in yellow dress trying to catch up with her big sister Nairobi.Nyeri is an old geezer who drives a 1978 Chevrolet pickup. Kisumu is a debonair gentlemen in three piece suit smoking a cigar, taking single malt whiskey, using words like ‘propestrous’ in his speech. You have to like the way sons of lake the take whiskey with religious piety, like its holy communion.

Coming from a place with no large water body, I love going down to Lake Victoria just to watch the lake anytime I am in Kisumu. I love Lake Victoria’s expanse-actually I feel it should be upgraded to a sea.  Or an inland ocean. The little lake ones love is ones biggest ocean. If Dead Sea, which does even support life, is ranked is a sea, then Lake Victoria should be upgraded to a sea too. For the love of Kisumu, we should start a petition to the UN for that upgrade. This would be a good reward to the lake which is always calm, unlike other water bodies which are always moody.

The other day that I found myself in Kisumu I was impressed by the town’s neatness. The town has fully recovered from the elections chaos that rocked the town last year.  Kisumu is one town where I have a free tour guide called Ogallo.Now, Ogallo and I did Literature and Linguistics together in campus. This man Ogallo is a man of letters. He speaks his English with pleasant flow of liquid words, the plosives gliding smoothly over the fricatives, the bilabials dancing gracefully over the alveolars.So much for Linguistics though.

When Ogallo is happy, epithets fall from his mouth. When he is angry, he hurls words around like spears. I always tell him that if he were to insult somebody, his insults could raise blisters on a sensitive skin because they would be so forcefull.But he hardly does that because he is such a refined man.When Ogallo is around me, he speaks in iambic pentameter, like Shakespeare, because he and I are poetry buffs.

Jarabuon, what brings thee to this lacustrine borough?

He asked me as he picked me from the bus stage.Jarabuon means ‘potato people’ his nickname for us from Central Kenya who take every meal, fish included, with Irish potatoes. Lacustrine means ‘having to do with the lake.’ As for borough, you check out the meaning. I am doing too much explaining.

Same old thirst for wisdom. I told him. I had gone to see a certain Professor at Maseno University.

One of the things that irk Ogallo is that I cannot eat fish. His efforts to enlist me into the cult of fish lovers have always failed. So he took me to the Imperial Hotel on Achieng Oneko Road where they serve good fish.

I hear you mountain people boil fish in lots of water then add warus to it.He tells me.

Treat that as a myth, like that of Nyamgondho. I retort back.

We laugh in between the meal. Then we wander off to the myth of Nyamgondho which Ogallo always narrates with gusto, rendering it afresh each time he does so.

Nyamgondho, son of Ombare was a  was poor chap who lived in  Kamuela village in the 14th century .He eked a living by fishing and hawking at Kondele market .When he made enough money he would visit local gin dens then later attend open air ohangala dances.

One day, as Nyamgondho was fishing, he pulled out an ugly one eyed woman from the lake. Nyamgondho wanted to throw her back to the lake, but the ugly woman begged him to keep her and marry her. Being a bachelor who girls avoided owing to his poverty, the idea of having a woman to sweep his simba was welcome To Nyamgondho. Thus he took Nyar Nam-daughter of the lake-home and made her his wife.

Soon, the two settled down and got a lot of wealth.  Nyamgondho named the woman Adikinyi and she bore him many children.Nyamgodho got several other wives and many children. He stopped taking illicit Nubian gin and graduated to single malt millet beer. He started smoking with gold tipped pipes, his tobacco imported all the way from the land of the Ankole. Gradually, Nyamgondho forgot about his humble beginnings and became very proud.

One Saturday evening, Nyamgondho came home drunk and cursing like a Sio Port sailor. His wives refused to open the door for him. Nyamgondho got angry and abused Adikinyi, calling her an ugly old woman. The following morning, Adikinyi headed to the lake, and all of Nyamgondho’s wealth followed her. If you go to Nyamgondho site by the lake, you can see Adikinyis foot prints and the ones left by the livestock as they headed for the lake.

The following day found us at Nyamgondho site which can be accessed by murram road from the lake shore town of Sindo.The site offers a panoramic view of Lake Victoria. Boats lay motionless in the glassy lake, their sails fluttering in the wind like girls silk petticoats. Then a brief zephyr blows from the East, filling the lakes surface with a thousand dimples.

The lake is a woman, a temptress. Ogallo tells me.

The reason why we sons of the lake are romantic is because we learn it from the lake.

He goes on in an enchanted monologue. I keep quiet and stare pensively to indicate to him that what he has said is deep.We sit by the shore watching the liquid soliloquy of the lake, listening to the lake breathing. The waves break on the shores back and forth, like the eternal ebb and flow of human misery. As the sun sets Ogallo hums some lines from the poem Dover Beach. The waves-

 

                Begin and cease, and then again begin,

With tremulous cadence slow, and bring,

The eternal note of sadness in.

 

After the Nyamgondho site tour we come back to town where I am to meet my Professor. At any given weekend, Kisumu has the highest concentration of Professors per square mile.

Now, my Professor is one of those unassuming scholars who did His Masters in Leeds, PhD in Cambridge and wears Oxford loafers and always dons a tie with an Oxford knot. When my Professor speaks, scholarship seeps from his mouth.

Great to see you osiepna. He tells me.We are at Kisumu Hotel that is opposite Maseno University Town Campus. After the usual chit chat, I tell him that I have to go out and look for good food.

What is good food?

I want some mukimo and minji.

What is minji? I explain to him what minji looks like.

Oh,you mean Pisum Sativum of the Fabacaea Family! Exclaims Professor in one eureka moment.

There is a Kikuyu lady who does them at Kondele.

So we continue with our chat with the Professor. Men with the rhythm of rhumba in their hips are dancing to some slow music. When Luos do the rhumba, they make it an art.The men have feet that are articulate as poetry, the ladies got hips that sway with coordinated geometry. But wait till hypnotic Ohangla hits the air and everybody dances with the lascivious grace of tango.

Kisumu Hotel is a cozy place with some aristocratic look. The drinks are pricey for a student like me so is their accommodation. I can’t wait to be done with Professor and go out to look for an affordable place plus my beloved mountain food.

Finally, my Prof is about to go. He calls the Hotels Manager and tells him that I am his guest.

This scholar is displaying somnolence .Get him a tranquil place for him to repose his tired torso.

That’s how I spent my night in the marvelous Kisumu Hotel despite its cost.

 

 

WAJIR BY MIRAA PLANE

It’s lazy Saturday morning. Two bicycle mechanics are sitting on a bench at their base, waiting for customers, watching their youth pass by without saying hi. One is squinting at his kabambe held together by an oily rubber band. He reads a message from his girlfriend who is 1000km away. The other chap who is his brother is chewing on a matchstick, wishing he was chewing muguka. An estate lad comes to have his bike’s puncture repaired. When the two brothers get paid, they buy a kanuthu of Safari Cane and bunch of muguka .All at Ksh 200.

After they have chewed enough muguka, the younger brother says that he misses his girlfriend  who is 1000km away. You know how muguka gives people outlandish ideas? His brother tells him that they can convert the scrap metals and steel bars in their yard into a flying bicycle so that they can visit the girlfriend the following day.

The two fellows then welded the scrap metals from their garage together and came up with an ugly juggernaut. Then they went to a cliff where it was let off. The younger brother was the first to go off. Some hormonal soups were hissing angrily in his hips looking for an outlet so he took the risk. Men who achieve great things are not motivated by their love for humanity. They are basically motivated by some primordial desires like Oedipal urge to be in some girl’s bosom, to suck deeply from Mother Nature’s wells.Anywhow, that’s how the first flight took place in some windy town in Ohio, U.S.A, in 1903.The flying bicycle invented by two brothers high on a crude spirit later came to be known as the aeroplane.Ok,I made up the crude spirit part just to spice things up.

Thus the first chap to fly-the one who was missing his girl-was Orville Wright. His brother was Wilbur Wright. Orville Wright never reached his girl since his flight lasted only twelve seconds and he carried the entire humanities fear of flight in his heart but all in all, he tried. I am sure his girlfriend left him since ladies don’t like a man who lasts only twelve seconds but that’s a story for another day.

You can now see the reason I don’t like flying. I don’t trust those things that defy gravity. The plane was invented by two brothers whose main motivation was not to connect the world but to visit some swooning girlfriend.Heck!The two jokers were not even engineers but some school drop-outs from Ohio who ran bicycle repair shed that was rarely open since they patronizedcheap spirits joints when they got money. The fellows weren’t even schooled. Orville had gone up to grade 4 and was chased out of school for stealing steel rods. His brother had repeated grade 5 so many times until he gave up. Such are the fellows who discovered the airplane.

But there are times when one has to take a flight. Like when you take a punishing 12 hour journey to Wajir by bus, you just don’t want to go by road again. Your back is drained of all sinokio fluid, making it creak loudly like you were classmates with Methuselah.

Wajir airplanes operate by their own rules. But anyway, Waria businesses operate by their own rules. They are guided by informality and haste. Warias break down unnecessary red tape leaving only the basic structures needed for business to operate. Warias will do a half a billion contract with zero paperwork. When you work in places like Wajir, you become a part of this delightful informality.

Take for example some years ago when I worked in an office that faced the flight path to Wajir Airport. Such that I could see planes landing from Kismayu, Mogadishu and Hargeisa for stopover before proceeding to Nairobi. We would wait until the plane lands, close the office, go shower and then rush to the agent. The agent was an amiable fellow called Shukri who would give us ticket on credit. Most of the times he would be lazing on a mat behind his office taking hot tea in the hot sun, chatting animatedly with his friends. I would go holding 3K knowing too well that the ticket was 5K.

Hakuna shinda,wewe atalipa tu. No problem, you will pay later.

He would tell me even before I had given him a sob story about how my salary had delayed and I had to go home. He would promptly issue a receipt and go back to his tea and friends.

Salamia bibi na watoto ukifika Kenya. He would sign us off. These places do not consider themselves Kenya. Then we would take boda boda to the airport just in time for the 50 min flight to Nairobi.

The thing about business is that when you trust people, they don’t break that trust. They pay up. We would pay Shukri the soonest we got money, only to go and borrow a flight home again. Such are the joys that come with these small towns.

Unfortunately, the airline that Shukri acted as the agent for left the route. We were left at the mercy of rickety miraa planes or commercial flights which were quite expensive. Commercial flights also come with their own red tape about online booking that we weren’t used to.So we opted for the miraa planes.

You may have flown the Dreamliner to Pluto and back, but you haven’t flown until you have done it in  a miraa plane. Those tiny things that leave Wilson Airport for some windswept Somali cities at dawn. By 8 am they are on their way back to Nairobi, but have to make a stopover at Wajir airport. My first flight with such was an out of this world experience.

One, the thing was too claustrophobic for comfort. It only had four seats since it’s a cargo plane and they remove the seats to create space for the miraa.As we boarded the plane, we were only five of us. When it was about to take off, a Land cruiser came running in the airstrip, waving us to stop. A family of three was ushered in-an elderly woman with her two daughters. She looked sickly so we had to vacate the seats for them and sit on the empty miraa sacks on the floor.

When the thing took off, I came so close to hell that I could hear the cackling of hell fire in the hereafter. The tiny thing did a somersault, two cartwheels, twerked its ass like a slay queen dancing in an X-rated music video before it got stable after achieving cruising altitude. Which was not much of an altitude since I could see goats chewing curds in the plains of Habaswein.

They say that planes take off against the wind. Methinks these small planes should be excused from that rule. The panting that the plane did is enough justification for that. Alternatively they can see a Grogon mechanic who can fit a small turbo propeller or a loud Subaru Forester engine to add some oomph to those small thingies.

But the take-of scare was nothing compared to when we came to that Ngong Hills circuit. The colonial aviation engineer who designed that airplane route that dictates airplanes have to go all the way to Ngong Hills before landing was high on something illicit. Then, the thing was flying so low that the aroma of nyama choma wafted from Ngong below us. It was a particularly bad day for flying and the sky was heavy with fog like unshed tears.

We rolled from one corner of the floor to the other, like potatoes in an old lorry from Kinangop.Then the small plane hit this huge turbulence. We felt like beans in a can soaring through the air on a downward turn of a parabolic arc. My friend rummaged the miraa sacks for some miraa to keep from puking. Am sure in that plane, we didn’t have a pagan at that particular moment. I promised Lord that I will offer burnt sacrifices to Him if we landed safely-something I am yet to do.

Clouds may look all fluffy and alluring from down here-until you are up there flying in an old miraa plane and you hit one. You see, clouds are the souls of the rivers. Rivers that have been reborn in the sea, only to fall back as rain and become rivers again then rush to the sea. But the reason clouds are so menacing is that they contain tears. Tears of heartbreaks and unfilled dreams and such.

The small thing’s air brakes hissed and moaned like angry dragons before it hit the runway in JKIA.The crew had told us that we were landing at the less bothersome Wilson airport. Now, the cargo section of JKIA is miles away from clearance. Before they came to pick us up, a bus that had left Wajir was on its halfway to Nairobi.
They say flying is like throwing your soul into the heavens and racing to catch it as it falls. When you fly a miraa plane, you are not even sure you will catch it.Its the closest you can come to playing the Russian roulette.

Flying may have some macho erotic terms like ‘Set Thrust’ and ‘Ad Cock’  to make it look cool.They dont fool me-its not my thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAJIR BY BUS

I always had this hunch that fate would one day nudge me and send me to an exotic place. One day it did that and told me that I had to go to Wajir. So I woke up and told my people: I love you but I have to go. It’s only by going that I can come back and see you with different eyes. Then I traveled to Wajir, stayed a little bit, and respected the place.

I faced some resistance. Those that have never ventured outside their homes are always the first to warn you against going to Northern Kenya. It’s the same in life-those that have never ventured on a journey are always the ones vehemently warning you against undertaking it.

Then, one morning, with the resolute determination of a lioness with ten mouths to feed, I packed my things and left –for Wajir.

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The grueling 700km 12-hour bus journey to Wajir begins with a good meal. It happens that all the Northern Kenya bound buses are based in Eastleigh-that delightfully chaotic suburb of Nairobi. You can’t sit in an Eastleigh hotel without bumping into a retired Kismayu pirate who came to launder his money here.But they don’t curse or drunkenly sing ‘fifteen men on a dead man’s chest and a bottle of rum’. They are gentle pirates who smile genuinely as they tell you ‘waria hii suit ni genuine kutoka Turkey’. Eastleigh is also never short of majestic men with beards dyed the colour of Royco thumbing prayer beads-as they swing their bakoras with majestic grandeur. Real men.

The bus conductor is a lanky fellow who keeps brushing his shiny teeth with a bush toothbrush. Karibu mageni.He tells me cheerfully as he ushers me into the bus. It’s only in Eastleigh that you are ushered into a bus that way.

Tutafika lini? I ask him.

Kesho inshallah. He answers back.

What he is implying is that the journey to Wajir is an overnight ordeal that needs Allah for guidance. I settle in my seat in the scented bus and watch Eastleigh chaos ebb like a sea getting calm for the night. A young man who seemingly has never gone to Wajir is saying kwaheri to his young family. His young wife and their two kids hug the man so tight-you could think he is going to Pluto. Goodbyes are such sweet sorrows.

My seatmate is a Mzee called Galgalo who speaks two Swahili words, ten Somali words aided with wild gesticulations and assumes that I get what he is saying. But we get along well he is such a jovial soul despite the language barrier. Galgalo hangs his bakora in the seat in front of him, spreads his miraa on his laps, and starts chewing noisily. I take out an old black book-Langston Hughes Complete Poetry Anthology-and get engrossed in the Harlem Poetry therein. At Pangani he offers me some miraa twigs which I refuse politely. At Thika Mzee Galgalo turns to me and says:

Wewe Kukuyu,sio?

Ndio abo. Abo is Somali for father.

Kukuyu mazuri sana-watu ya biashara kama waria.

Kweli yake.

And so we have our little chit-chat with Mzee Galgalo in broken Swahili mixed with Somali. Rules of language dictate that when you are talking with someone who doesn’t understand a language well, you downsize yours. They don’t teach that in school.

We are now at Kithyoko .Mzee Galgalo commands the conductor to stop the bus so that he can restock on muguka. You got to respect a man who commanders a whole bus to stop so that he can feed his cravings. When he comes back he hands me a soda and apologizes genuinely.

Bole sana-mimi naona nasumbua wewe.

Hujasubua mimi. I answer him.

Lakini mimi naona wewe ni mtu wa dini kabisa! He says.

Kwa nini?  I ask him.

Kila wakati mimi naona wewe nasoma Biblia.

Do I tell him that I am reading one of Langston Hughes erotic poems?

We get to Matuu and its magharib prayer time. The conductor whose mouth is green with muguka shouts salah! The bus is parked by the roadside. These buses have unwritten rules-the men go to one side while the ladies go to the other side. The men remove their shoes, perform their ablutions, and face Mecca for their prayers.

Shortly, we get to Mwingi. Women wave at us from the roadside with mangoes, oranges and zeituni (guavas). If you have never eaten Mwingi guavas, then you are yet to taste life. Two women approach my seat with basket of fruits. Before I can protest that I don’t have money, a fat lady has already tossed an equally fat guava my way and told me:

‘Baba,oja hio usikie utamu wake’.

Man! Where else does one get to be enticed such way by women apart from Ukambani? I buy two kilos of guavas which is more than I can munch. That woman has Ph.D. in marketing.

The conductor has announced a 20-minute super break. The driver and his squad-those noisy fellows who sit atop the engine cabin-restock on fresh miraa . Northern Kenya buses are propelled by diesel and miraa .To pass an interview as a driver of one of these buses, one is assessed by the number of kilos of miraa he can chew in a day.

After snacking we board the bus and it starts flying –the dose of miraa the driver took at Mwingi is unadulterated and KEBS certified. A lady who took too many roadside samosas starts to puke through the window. A man who took too much drink is at the door holding the conductor by his neck-commanding him to stop the bus or he does it right there. The bus stops and almost everybody alights and the whole world becomes a urinal.

Up there in the heavens, there is a full moon blazing on us like a golden lozenge. A lovely zephyr caresses my skin-Ukambani always has this sultry weather. In a short while, we come to Ukasi-the town that marks the end of Ukambani as we head to Garissa.I offer Mzee Galgalo the guavas. He squints at them and selects the smallest ones. Thus I ask him why he is opting for the small ones.

We bado jua,kitu ndogo ndio tamu. The smaller it is, the sweeter it is.

With a mischievous glint in his eyes,Mzee Galgalo elaborates  that camel meat is good, but goat meat is better, chicken is even better than the rest. The smaller the better. A bus journey is a life lesson.

He then gets fidgety then disappears into the dark aisle. Shortly he comes back with  groundnuts in his hands. He tells me that he had gone to borrow groundnuts from people seated in seat number 55 and we are in seat 13.

Kwa nini huwezi omba kwa huyo jirani wako hapo? I ask him.

Huyu habana mtu ya mlango yangu! He is not from my sub-clan. You see, a Somali man will travel a mile to borrow single grain of njugu from his clansmen. He then offers me njugu which I select the big ones.

Wewe bado elewa,ikiwa kubwa utamu kidogo.Hata kwa maisha iko namna hio!

He reminds me of his previous lesson with a naughty wink. We laugh until he disappears to the back again to chat with watu ya mlango yake.We reach a place called Abakore where the road branches of from the city of thorns they call Dadaab and heads towards Habaswein-the town of many winds.Ikiwa ndogo,utamu mingi .Mzee Galgalo whispers into my ears. Then he alights out of the bus, swinging his bakora back and forth as he becomes one with the night.

A man with four goats stops the bus. The bleating goats are ushered into the bus undercarriage. The man enters the bus with his son, a young chap of about ten. The young chap fondly holds a white kid goat in his lap throughout the journey. Down the road, four lanky young men board the bus. Their kikos can hardly hide the Somali hunting knives in their hips. They are turbaned –making them look like knight Templars headed for some secret nocturnal crusade in some forgotten hamlet.

Since the bus is full, they agree to ride at the top. So they go up there, arrange their miraa in the bus top carrier and start chewing under the soft moonlight .Then they start complaining that the bus is going too fast and they can’t eat their miraa in peace. The bus conductor tells them to buy a bus of their own for chewing miraa in.

Everything is now silent apart from the chug-chug-chug of the bus wheels and the chomp-chomp-chomp of the miraa chewers. How the driver navigates the night with no Google maps beats sense. One mad turn into a road less traveled and you find yourself headed to Kismayu which is nearer to Wajir than Nairobi. The driver at times gets lost but he does so in the right direction. A bus journey is a metaphor for life: sometimes we get lost in the right direction. Other times in the wrong direction never, to recover again.

We are now at Habaswein-the place with a buxom lady called Raha who cooks killer chapos and goat meat. Habaswein is not in any map; true places never are. Just like that place you had your first kiss. Or that screechy bed you lost your innocence: a glorious experience that you have always longed to relive. We all have such a place that we want to go back to only that when you finally get there, we realize it’s our youth that we have been missing. But I digress.

The Somali have a breakfast called KK that incorporates chapatis, vegetables, goat soup, and a few pieces of goat meat. You eat this for two weeks and your forehead shines like an oil Sheikh’s. In Raha’s kitchen, the recipe for KK includes a helping of a spoonful of sugar. It’s only in Northern Kenya that sugar is added to food including ugali. This is no different from Kikuyus adding water to fish. All communities have their gastronomical goofs.

It’s now morning and the sun is rising beautifully from Kismayu-the desert has rough a beauty of its own. You see, there are places you go to and love. Others you go to and hate. But when you go to Wajir, you respect the place, the people’s resilience, and their sense of pride. People who walk with heads held high and speak in loud voices and eat noisily since they haven’t been silenced by silly city etiquettes that demand we cannot eat by hands or slurp tea lovingly. A free people who set their own standards of etiquette.

We have now traveled for so long that I think that since the world is round, we might be at the same place we started. We come to the barrier they erect just before you enter Wajir. An AP officer is sleeping on mat under a tree-his Kalashnikov acting as his pillow.The bus conductor gets out and kicks barrier out of the way.

Thirteen hours later the bus in which we have been travelling in like beings in space ship hurtling to some celestial reckoning arrives in Wajir. Kids are rushing to school and shepherds are taking their flocks to the pastures. Market women are spreading watermelons and greens by the roadside. We are tired but not worn out. This is what Vasco da Gama must have felt after rounding the Cape and landing at Malindi. But we aren’t the same way we started -our lessons come from the journey, not the destination. We may have been made weak by time and fate, but still we are strong-

-to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.

Wajir feels exotic. It’s only in Northern Kenya that you travel to set foot in your country for the first time. Travelling within other parts of Kenya is a trip, but travelling to Wajir is an odyssey. Why? It is said that every 100 feet the world changes. The changes in 700km we have travelled are thus enormous.

The Muslims say bismillahi and alight from the bus. The Christians do the sign of the cross and disappear into the streets of Wajir.

The odyssey is finally over; another has just began.

KIMENDE

There are no better times to travel than when one is a bachelor. You can take breakfast of roasted yams in Nkubu,lunch at Gwa Kibira chicken joint in Kutus and take supper of waru and carrots in the one goat township of Kanyenyaini.All without a pesky wife asking ‘uko wapi?’ every two minutes. Bachelorhood without travel is a wasted one. When I was a bachelor, I drifted from one town to the next, like a child’s lost balloon, inhaling the fragrances of small towns, drinking life to the dregs. When I was too broke, which was often, I read books which took me places where my meagre pay couldn’t.

You see, there is no book like travel. Travel widens horizons and opens up fountains of knowledge. Failing to travel is like living in a corner of a room, like a toad, in a house full of a thousand rooms.

Fate has a mind of its own. When it noticed that I was always travelling solo and enjoying the buffets of travel alone, it sent me a person to enjoy travel with. That’s how one fair lady waltzed into my life like a prima donna. As young girls tend to be, she was dreamy-eyed and had this outlandish ideas about travel.

 My favorite place is Seychelles;will you ever take me there? She asked me one day.

My favourite place is in your arms, I answered her back. My pockets may have been empty then but my brain wasn’t.

Which is the most beautiful place you ever visited? She asked me another day. I knew this was a trap-if I mentioned some exotic place, she would ask me to take her there.

Your mind. I told her. This was an honest answer.

My fair lady wanted to go to exotic places with dancing lights and endless sunsets. But trust me-there is no creative person than a bachelor with a fair lady to please.  If the place she wanted to go to had a movie set in there, I would buy that movie which  would teleport her there and quench her wanderlust. You see nothing that romanticizes a place better than a movie. When she wanted to go to Bahamas, I got her Casino Royale which was big then and has scenes from Bahamas. When she said she longed to feel the sand pebbles of Waikiki with her feet, I bought her Raiders of the Lost Ark which is set in Hawaii. When she said she wanted to go to a place which they had not yet shot a movie in, I wrote poems that took her there.

Then one morning, around that time we were having that silly  bananas and oranges referendum on the new Constitution, I told her I will take her to Kimende.

Where is that Kimende whareva? She asked.

Some place with rarified airs where plums fall from the sky all day.I quipped.

What’s in Kimende?  She asked with a shrug of her shoulders since by then rolling of eyes hadn’t gained currency among girls like it has now.

I want to take you to places people don’t go to and thus see things people don’t see.

So? She asked. I had to work harder. Dating a fair lady is no joke. They come with attitude the size of Mt.Kenya.

We can watch the Great Rift Valley turn golden at sunset at the Viewpoint.

Arafu?  When a lady asks you this, she is telling you are dumb and need to up your game. I did.

Arafu we cherish the music of the wind because musical notes blow in the air there like some golden dust.

She smiled. I was headed somewhere.

Wi na ma? (Oh really?)

God one. I swore, knowing too well I was lying.

Ok, take me there and promise we won’t stay. Game shot.

The following day I called my old pal Mwaura who lived in Naivasha and told him we meet up at Kimende the following Saturday. We had suffered under the same bell together in high school. We had shared the same room in campus and hadn’t met for 4 years after clearing campus. So the trip was more about us catching up and seeing how life was treating us and less about the fair lady drapped in my arms. It was also to get endorsement from a friend about her. But she didn’t know all these-all she knew was that we were going to a magical place where musical notes hung in the air like golden dust.

Kimende was one drab place then. Not that it has changed much. The only thing that differentiated a day from the next was the alternation of the mist.  There were folks sitting beside jikos eating waru snacks and folks selling leeks and carrots and potatoes by the bucket There were folks squinting  from quaint shops looking up the Nairobi Nakuru highway as if they were waiting for something big to happen which didn’t happen but which still they hoped will happen.Those folks are still there.Thats the thing about small towns.

How can one love such a cold windy place? Asked my fair lady when we landed in the cold town.

My fair lady, like Queen Getrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, did complain too much. She came from the plains where it was warm and flat. She expected Kimende to be some warm flat place too. We all carry a piece of where we come from to where we go.

If one can love this place, you can love anyone. I told her.

Travel teaches you about love. I pushed on. Shoulders shrug.

You see, there is someone who cannot leave this place because his heart is forever held by it, I waxed philosophical.

Why? The fair lady asked me.

Because they got fond memories buried in here.The place is the mecca of their childhood.

So we had our meeting with Mwaura in this quaint pub that looked like it had its last customer before the fall of Berlin Wall. Soon we were chatting happily about life like the long-lost buddies we were. Pubs are like churches-folks tend to unburden themselves and bare their souls. And if they offer accommodation people bare their bodies too but that’s not what brought us there that day.

I could imagine how humdrum life in Kimende can be-days hanging on to each other and joined to the next by some frosty cold. To compensate for the cold, the locals are warm and full of time old-time camaraderie. The shopkeepers smile to customers and give them avocados when they cannot get coins to return change. Or plums.

Why are these people giving us avocados? My fair lady asked me.

They are symbols of fertility. Wink. When she got the joke she giggled then shrugged her shoulders.

We had a long chat with Mwaura as the butcher – a cheery fellow called Mbugua-prepared some tumbukiza for us to ward of the cold. We reminisced about our days at Njiiri School and KU.Of course embellishing some parts. We talked about our campus days omitting the more scandalous parts. Campus life was one continous scandal.Then Mbugua served us with a big mountain of meat with an even bigger mountain of ugali.When we ate and didn’t belch to show the we had taken enough, he added us more meat till we belched in unison and couldn’t take any more meat.

I am beginning to like this small cold town with great meat. The fair lady said.

I never take you to places you won’t like.She giggled.

Afterwards I told her that it was getting late and we couldn’t get to the Viewpoint where music notes hung in the air like golden dust. This meant that we could come again and partake the yummy meat at that joint. We bade Mwaura goodbye and boarded a matatu to Nairobi.

We sat at the driver’s cabin since the other seats were close to the back where sacks of leeks and onions filled the area with unholy smell. The driver was an affable Mukorino guy with two missing front teeth which gave his Gikuyu a happy French lilt. When we started discussing how Kimende people are generous with meat and how exotic it tastes, he interjected.

Whith buthery were you eating meat at?

‘Ponda Raha Bar and Butchery .The problem with Central Kenya is that bars and butcheries have names that can make you lose appetite for life.

Hio ni nyama ya funda direct .He said without  as much as looking at us, his eyes squinting into the mist ahead.Akorinos don’t lies we had been eaten donkey meat.2kg of it all.

My bowels opened up. I puked all the way such that by the time we came to Kangemi, I had puked out my liver. The heart came out at Westlands–together with the pulmonary arteries responsible for loving.Lawd! I hated Kimende-how could I even love when the parts of my heart responsible for loving had come out? Finally, at Khoja stage, I puked out the aorta and the parts responsible for hating. Now, I could now neither love nor hate. The only thing vital thing that remained in me was the soul which I couldn’t puke out since it’s indestructible.Or maybe I didn’t have one.

The following day Mwaura called to ask whether we go home safe .I narrated to him how I had vomited out almost all my vital organs and soiled the fair lady’s white dress. Which she had pointed out that I hadn’t bought.

Is the fair lady still with you? He asked me.

Yes. She is here with me making some pancakes to nurse me.

Mundu, get some wazees, send them to her folks to report that you are taking her as a wife.

I did that the following week.

The fair lady who withstood my puking from Kimende to Khoja stage is making pancakes for me as I write this.

She is my wife.