Celebrating East African Writing!
By Naomi Mutua
Everyone has their own words and opinion to describe Africa, and I’m not one to be left behind.
Forget the images of a ravaged, war torn landscape, the suffering children, the hungry families, and the struggling worker that are shown on the news, day in, day out. Africa is a land of abundance. I wake up every day to rejoice in it.
The weaver birds chattering as they busily weave their nests in the tree outside my apartment seems to reinforce the sounds of my alarm clock as I seek to snooze for five more minutes. I can’t help thinking of their chirping and chatter as a boost to make my cold Monday morning a bit more tolerable. This is my Africa, of nature’s wonders, of happiness and joy each morning.
The rains have set in, a month late, and as I have my breakfast, I think of the way the rain has turned the road to the bus stop into sludge. Then I remember that the same rains made the grass that I delight to roll in grow, and so I put on my boots and grab my umbrella, tuck my bag under my arm and steadily make my way to the bus stop. I hope not to slip and fall in the mud and on my butt. This is my Africa, a land of unexpected surprises, and sometimes, funny humor.
The industrious matatu driver and his tout are calling to us to board their ‘fastest’ matatu, with ‘only two more seats to fill‘. They must be optimists, or blind, because there are six more seats to fill. I get in and take my seat, and hope that the other three passengers standing outside will take the cue and join me. Driving on, I glance at the newspaper in the lap of the passenger beside me. Politics and bad news are at the top of the page. But if anything, it serves to give my day much needed humour as I strain my neck to read what the representatives in our parliament have been up to, with their never-ending antics. And I remind myself to vote more wisely next year. This is my Africa that gives me a chance to make mistakes and learn from them, and to plan a better tomorrow.
By the time I reach my desk at work, I’m harbouring a thin sweat, and I’m hot, despite the freezing temperatures outside. My colleague, from Europe, looks at me and laughs lightly when I shed my three layers of jacket, sweater and scarf – to him, the temperature is just perfect. I shrug and make my way to the kitchen for a hot cup of tea. Like they say, there’s nothing like a hot cup of Kenyan tea to start your day with. This is my Africa, full of optimism and promise, full of a busy, nation-building effort.
Soon enough, digging into my work, the hours rush along, and it’s lunch time. Everyone rushes out of the office, and we all head to our favourite mama githeri’s shop. It’s not that we cannot afford the burgers and the chicken – just that mama githeri reminds us of our mother’s cooking, with her delicious homemade dishes, served in amounts enough to feed a hard working manual labourer without denting his pocket, and more than enough to fill the belly of my chair-sitting white collar self. But we bond over the meal with other regular customers, no pretences, no airs. Just workers out to get a good meal. This is my Africa, of healthy meals, cheap food, and warm bellies.
As the rest of the afternoon rushes on, the sun makes a brief appearance, and we even manage five minute dashes to soak ourselves in the warmth as we take our breaks. The soft heat on my skin is welcome and I look heavenwards as I thank God for the brief respite from the cold. And I remember to thank Him for countless other blessings. This is my Africa, where the smallest joys are the biggest blessings.
Making my way home that evening, the clouds break out again, pouring rain and soaking me wet. I do a little dance as I walk home, reminding myself that the rain is a blessing, and though I might catch a cold, the rain will make the farms sprout in abundance, and water fill the rivers. This is my Africa, where we dance in the rain as we chant to the rain gods to bless us year after year.
As I sleep again at night, I remember that my day has not been too bad. There are many who’ve had it worse. And I remind myself to do a good deed tomorrow, help a neighbour in need. Just as someone did years ago, giving me a chance, I need to do the same and pass it on. This is Africa, a community that raises, helps its own, that lives and loves to welcome a needy soul, and a weary traveller.
My Africa is full of love and light and joy. My Africa is spiritual, drawing me closer to God with each single wonder of nature. My Africa is not a dark, despondent continent. It is Africa, and will always be home.