Celebrating East African Writing!

In The Ghetto

By Andrew Moffat Mulehi

I woke up to the twittering of the birds and found the earth already baked with the sun’s ever-bright rays. The sweet essence of nature always makes me give thanks to the creator for yet another day. I take a few moments to recognize myself after waking up. That happens when one wakes up on the previous day’s hangovers. As I toss and turn on bed looking for a strategy to arise, my mind gradually gains momentum. I hear children play on the outside, at the neighboring school. They are probably on short or lunch break. That’s when I realize that I’ve got to wake up! I do so having proved its still 10 A.M by turning my radio on and confirming a certain show.  I quickly take a shower, grab my I-pod and I’m off to the streets. While music pops from my earphones I just feel happy to be alive…, nothing more than that; that’s our morning glory, I’m in the ghetto!

I get to my destination, the baze…, as we are used to calling it. This is where my crew and friends interact, have some fun and also make a living. This looks like a sad morning. First I learn that matatus are on strike due to hiked fuel costs. (A matatus is a means of transport, a van that ferries passengers to and from Nairobi city). This isn’t cool at all; where will we get today’s upkeep? Furthermore I haven’t taken breakfast. Anyway, I just desist from complains because it won’t help me from destitute. Even if I tried running up and down the streets raising an alarm with aid of a mega-phone won’t be of help. Probably people will take me to mental care unit sifting insanity. So I resolve to keep these to myself. But my pal sites signs of abnormity on me. His conclusion is that I may be sick if not hungry. He turns out to be right on the latter.

He suggests that we should go to a café for tea. I just like it how we get to understand each other’s situations with ease. Maybe it’s because we are adapted to these situations which made us live like brothers. Always helping each other from problems and coming up with solutions to issues. Anyhow, Today I’m lucky to have my cup of tea.

Hotels versus Saloons

When we get to the café my pal suggests that we should take lunch altogether with the cup of tea since it’s already noon. I tell him that I’ll take anything provided my stomach stops complaining! I’m kind of shy so I took my seat at the furthest end. My pal gets to the kitchen and brings the food on the table. This is normal in the ghetto. I can see the kitchen from where I’m sitting so I think it’s o.k. to call this a make-shift hotel. There used to be one on the opposite road side which used to be a little better off but was shut down when it’s manager went bankrupt. My pal confirms my sentiments but and informs me that someone else is planning to open up a barber shop on that exact spot. Hair stories aren’t allowed during a meal so we pause on them to enjoy our food.

During the meal I notice a cockroach making its way fast into some crack besides me, but that doesn’t stop me from eating lest I die hungry. I get to notice why it made its move. It was because a mouse was making a run after noticing the presence of the cat which was resting under our table… (This makes me remember Tom and Jerry. One of my best cartoons programmed ever!) I assume the whole scenario but deep within I feel so bored with why I can’t salvage my situation.

On the next table someone is gradually raising his volume in complains about something… I notice that he’s got issues with the hotel’s management. One waiter on service comes to his attention as the other’s watch from a far, pretending to be deeply busy working. (This is so because the rest had learnt of a clue as to why the guy was getting bitter). Then the involved waiter handles the situation unprofessionally by denying the facts, which make us all to get feeds to that link; where the man had found a strand of hair on his meal. Now that was enough to make me get satisfied with my food! My pal decides to pay and off we go… We don’t even drink water on completion. Instead he decides to buy bottled water on the nearby kiosk.

The owner of the kiosk serves us with water made cool by frozen ice, and it serves my satisfaction. No sooner had I started feeling the cool afternoon breeze than other bad news gets posted in. My best pal is dead!

We get to know that he died trying to make a living…, that was according to reports we got. His death wasn’t a good one because we are informed that he was shot dead. In mysterious terminologies, it is reported that he was found in possession of illegal firearm and a sample of his DNA test confirmed he was high at the moment he was killed. With that under progression by police, you get to know that we all have to be cautious in the way we make a living. You ought to trust using the right channels to make a living or else a living gets out of your job.

The whole scenario confirms to my fears.., you can’t fool the administration. You can also run but you can’t hide! You have to be a law abiding student to have an easy time at school. They made the rules which we all try to bend, if not to break. Thus they can expel or admit at any time. Caution is called for in any small action you do while attending school! Unless you will be forcefully taken to a boarding school full of hard core bullies, those like you have never seen in before. Some have cracks on their faces; others with naturally gold plated teeth.., (also referred to as grills), and most of them with skin tones darker than the night. To say this is to warn you that any slight mishap can land you in a situation worse than eating food with cockroaches dancing on the soup!

I once found myself missing from home one day. And it’s not that I had attended school as it used to be routinely when I was away from home. It’s because I got a free transfer from my day school and was booked at boarding school when it was noticed that I was an idler. I was to be reformed using 48 hours because it was on a Friday and the principal’s office wasn’t in operation. I had to be kept in custody till the principal resumed his duty on Monday morning.

Boarding School Bullies

I got a thorough beating while being escorted to that school. I even swore to myself never to walk at such late night hours again.

But in reality, I deserved the torture because…, sincerely speaking I had violated rules and regulations. Walking in the wee hours at night doing nothing productive is heavily prohibited, and if found with the prefects on duty you get into hot soup. This day it was me boiling up in the soup. To make the matters worse I was also high from some form of intoxication. That further pushed me from the frying pan into the fire.

Together with six other suspects we were apprehended to the nearby boarding school. I even didn’t get to know what they were suspected of. All I knew is that we were all some kind of law breakers of that moment and everybody had to carry his own cross.

When we got to the stationed destination, we had to sign up our profile information so as to log into our new accounts. We did that under surveillance. On completion we took a tour around the school to get familiar with environment. This was the most horrible tour I ever took!

The tour was a forced one, and every new recruit had to pass through! Those who refused were dealt with accordingly. That was facilitated by the school bullies. With orders from the meanest of them all, also known as (first body) in charge.  He is called a first body because he’s in charge of everybody and nobody can surpass his might and strength.

I got some leniency from the first body because of my small size. That time I was only fourteen years old and a mono in High school. So he said that I was an under 18 wrongly misplaced. But my rude nature had resulted to my graduation to that environment. Soon I was nick-named as the last born. That was used by my fellow in-mates during my stay at the cell.

Even though I got this kind of horrendous experience, mine was less harsh compared to my pal who was expelled from both day and boarding school. He wasn’t in jail neither alive no more! I am still yet to come to terms why it happened so. I really miss him a lot.

© Andrew Moffat Mulehi 2010


If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.



3 comments on “In The Ghetto

  1. kyt
    October 16, 2010

    pole mu guy sh%t happens, giving it a seven.


  2. Eve
    October 22, 2010

    not sure on this one…


  3. rainkenya
    November 6, 2010

    There is a story here, it’s just that it is fragmented here and there. Sentence construction too is wanting, but all in all practice makes perfect and more reading.

    Keep up the ‘fwire’ burning.

    I give it a 5


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