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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.