By Winfred Nyokabi, Tharaka, Kenya
This story has been long coming. Somehow, it’s too close to my heart that sharing it has taken quite the effort.
Well, here goes nothing. After ‘battling’ orderly buses and a taxi driver who did not speak a word of English, to walking into a hotel that was supposed to be my home now in the name of a dorm, I walked into this room complete with my kiondo wrapped with a shuka to the grinning face of this beauty.
Well, I have always been around covered Muslims, it’s the uncovered ones I was not used to. She proceeds to help me unpack, spread my bed and even make me a cup of tea. You and I know whatever they call tea is really not tea.
Is this where I use caps to illustrate my disappointment at the coloured water called tea on these sides of the world? I digress. Anyhows, she makes me comfortable, insists I have to sleep, but then, someone had suggested there was another Kenya, in fact a Meru within 1km of my premises.
I gathered my jetlagged self and decided to go search for this human who may speak a language close to mine at
least. There I get my proper cup of tea and back I go.
Having arrived on a Thursday meant I had only Friday to take care of my paperwork and this was the time I now meet the other girl who would eventually end up being my baby, secretary, personal assistant, personal trainer all rolled into one.
She took me around the city, I couldn’t believe that I did three government offices in one day, and there was ongoing construction in the middle of the city with no traffic jam! Watu wa Nyairofi, you know what I’m talking about. Imagine there are places where they build roads in the middle of a roundabout and there is no snare-up. Now, this was the uncovered Muslim.
A bond was formed that had all three of us become inseparable for the two years. This story is about the covered one, I will give another one about the uncovered one. You remember how I’m this Catholic lass who is a recent convert very excited about saints, and actually knows the statues are not idols, (yes, you can roll your eyes here), well, I had my share of statues, which I very gladly put up, right next to her bed.
No, I’, not passive-aggressive, it was, still is me proudly carrying my Jesus and His folks. She came back from her class and her words were, ‘you are really proud of your religion’ to which I responded in the affirmative. She would set her alarm at 6.30 am for her morning prayers, while mine would go off at 6.25 so I could make it for morning Mass.
Those 5 minutes were a constant strain in our sismance. Is that even a word? I learned to do all five hours of prayer through her. We would talk endlessly about life, boys (I cover my eyes with my palms and blush a crimson), religion and spirituality, our dreams and aspirations and all that women our age would gossip about.
Walking the streets was always fun. In a community averse to outsiders, being black was enough reason to be stared at, have hair pulled by kids, older people, like the really old one, checking whether their hands would have black paint after shaking hands, it was all a source of amusement to me. now I understood how my white friends felt whenever I took them with me into the armpits of Laikipia.
Add a covered Muslim girl into that mix, and boy, it was fun! One time we went to Mass together, and I swear even the priest took a step back. There was a time we went out for a date at this bar that had amazing coffee and cake and the new waitress was unable to serve us.
The worst part is we knew why and we were having too much fun to get her out of her misery. Yayaya, we should be nice, doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun though. It was eventually time to say our goodbyes, and tears flowed freely, the hugs tighter than ever and words left unspoken. I will still come to Istanbul and Lebanon.