My Kenya

At 12:00 noon, I turned again in a strange bed. Comfortable but strange. I had walked into my hotel room at around 4:00 am. Sober but exhausted. The events of the previous night came tumbling into my brain. Apart from the occasional glass of wine I rarely imbibe. The previous night was no different. We finished work early and decided to see Kisii by night. My colleague kept saying I have this moments where I go really silent. He almost felt like I was ignoring him. There was no life in this club. Apart from the occasional dancing – naeza nengua kiuno – tiny as it is, I watched people a lot because he was also silent and spent time glued to his screen. I haven’t clubbed a lot so I have no template to compare Kisii to. It looked boring, everyone was sited – I included, kissing their glasses and bottles like an ice lolly. Even as the night wore on only a handful stood up to dance. Most of these got their courage from the liquids they used to rinse their throats.

As I swayed to Aretha Franklin, Diamond Platinumz, Michael Jackson and the likes it occurred to me how much I have been uninvolved in my life. Don’t get me wrong I have put in a huge amount of effort to be whom I am. But I have been scared. Scared to be me, afraid to take chances. Of course luck plays a huge role in whom we become. To get lucky you must be willing to put your true self out there. I am Meru and very proud to be Meru, it’s written all over my name. I sometimes get offended when someone starts stereotyping my tribe and asking why I have no accent. Must I say “mbus” to identify as Meru?

I stood out like a sore thumb all the time I spent in Kisii. I did not look different, I just spoke different. Every time a hawker approached me they went off in Kikisii and I stared at them like an empty whisky barrel. Each time a tout tried to talk me into their matatu they spoke in Kikisii. I looked like a snob for the most part. One time at a meeting everyone talked in Kisii and chuckled. I just stared into the horizon. Sometimes a colleague tried to explain but things got lost in translation. I felt alone. This feeling got me in touch with many things including my roots. On my last day I placed an order for a college jacket to profess my baite identity. I got it from Baite Ware. I realized in trying to fight tribalism and nepotism we are also losing our identity. We have married from different tribes, races and religions but we are still denying our oneness. Why did post-election violence happen you ask? I stand to be corrected but I think it’s because in trying to fight tribalism we have forgotten that we should embrace diversity. Hence each tribe feels threatened by the other. Can’t we proud of our tribes while being one nation?

Imagine how it would be if we were all born Luo, or Maasai or even white? We have come a long way in embracing diversity but we have also failed ourselves by denying who we are. I am very liberal but when I see any rowdy people in K’ogello attire (the football team) I will say, “ Hawa wajaluo nao?” I fail to understand their pride in their tribe. I am not saying we should be violent or tolerate it, but we could take a minute to find out why? We could pause and ask, “Is that a rowdy group or are they just genuinely excited about their team?” Every Kikuyu is not a thief. Every Meru doesn’t chew miraa but we are fiercely proud and protective of our green gold. Every Luhya doesn’t love ugali and chicken, this might be a lie. Every Indian doesn’t chew tobacco. Every Maasai woman is not circumcised. I may be wrong in most of the stereotypes but you get my point.

I was born and raised in Meru but I don’t know most of my traditions. I cannot clearly tell you the role of Njuri Ncheke apart from what I have read. You can crucify me if you want. No one sat me down and told me all about it. I am not saying we need to hold baraza’s once in a while to be taught about our traditions. Although we kind of do need to, we need to teach our younger generations about our cultures. I am not against civilization, in fact I am all for that because it’s the only way we can grow as humans. I am just wondering is there a way to try and maintain our culture? Are we doing enough?

In a strange land you embrace who you are. Here is where you can’t be anyone one else, you are fiercely proud and protective of your tribe and nationality. In the short week I was in Kisii I remember every time someone spoke to me in Kisii, I was quick to say, “I don’t understand Kikisii, I am Meru.” I strongly identified with Meru. The drum beats for the next elections are already roaring. I am sure we will not see bloodshed again if anything, we learnt from the past. But I am not sure, we will ever be able to disconnect our brains from our emotions long enough to vote for good leaders. We have been screwed over, time and again and now we rank as number three as the world’s most corrupt country. At the ballot box will we be able to say, “You might be my brother but I don’t support your fucked up ideologies?” Can I still be Meru and not vote for a corrupt leader just because he is from my tribe or is my brother? Can I remove my head in my ass where it’s shoved so far up and look at my bleeding country? Or will I just sit like the revelers in the club I visited and not be bothered by what happens around me?

Whoever said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” contradicted the guy of out of, “sight out of mind” but he made sense.