Musings at 4 AM.

It’s 4 am, and I miss home.
Home where I learnt to ride a bike
on the trails tucked beneath
that dusty hill known as Sang’alo.
I miss home.
Home where Luthuli fries were a staple
after nights of frenzied alcohol-free dancing
at hengs in Westie, Langata, Hurlingham or South B.
Where the green of the grass in Bungoma
is still the most vividly brilliant shade ever
and the cooing of those pigeons that Kukhu
loved woke us up to a dewy African morning.
I miss home.
Home where I learnt to ‘hang’ on a ‘mat’
and get to downtown for ‘sar-ray’
in order to dance to some dancehall and
that new jack swing that kept us moving.
Home where getting to one club or heng from another
was not hindered by the lack of a working vehicle
or the logical fear of parental wrath if one
‘borrowed’ the family car for ‘raoz’ (rounds).
Public transport was always there for us.
Mis-timed, regularly diverted routes, non-specific at times
but it was always there.
Home where Nyama Choma is an all day entree;
Breakfast, Lunch, 4 o’clock tea, Supper and
that pre-bed snack that the maid snuck in to us.
I miss home.
Home where you met new family members daily,
“She is nani’s cousin so she is your cousin also…
but her mom is married to nani’s Uncle…
so she is supposed to call you Grandmother…”
Yes, Home.
Home where a 16 year old child would be referred to
as Grandmother by a 40 year old because of complexities
within our tribal family ties.
Home where Jam Session was held almost daily at Florida2000 (aka F2),
ZigZag or some other hole-in-the-city-of-Nairobi
and every under-18 person would be present,
duly holding a bottle of Coke or Fanta in hand.
Home where the ‘working girls’ at F2 and on Koinange Street
were as well known as the nightclub AND the street.
Home where we danced at Jungle, Klubhouse 1 and Klubhouse 2 (K-1 and K-2),
Home where we shot pool at JayKays. And stared at the cute boys as we did.
I miss home.
Home where the air smells like air,
and the food tastes like food…real.
Home where I listened to Grandfather’s stories
and watched the way he looked at my Grandmother
with such love and reverence.
Home where I had my first heartbreak,
and where I learned to love an entity outside my family.
Home where words found me and allowed me to breathe.
I miss home.
Home that had fathers who protected their daughters
with such ferocity and that double-edged Somali sword
and the boys knew it and were scared-respectful.
Home that had mothers who tried to hide their photo albums
from eons ago when they rocked mini-skirts, afros and
thickly rimmed, horn-shaped spectacles.
I miss home.
Home where people could pronounce all six of my names
without stumbling or asking if I was Nigerian.
Home where I could walk into a dance-club with flipflops,
a tee and jeans and would still get approached.
Home where we talked politics, debated policies
whispered conspiracy theories in the family room,
and nobody gave us a blank stare in return.
I miss home.
Home where a pound is 20 shillings and an ashara would
get you from Lavington to downtown Nairobi.
Home where Elliot’s Brown Bread was king in our house
and Mayi was not supposed to eat salt…ever.
Home where malaria took hold of you,
but you were not quarantined at the local hospital
with white-coat scientists probing you,
asking you to pee and deposit some fecal matter
into a tiny white cup.
Home where we played ‘Shake’ instead of video games,
“Kah-tee” instead of double-dutch.
I miss home.
Home where the teachers smacked you into submission,
then reported you to your parents who then smacked you.
Once at the school, in front of your teacher, perhaps so she/he
can know, for sure, that you were indeed punished for your
hellish deeds and/or behaviors.
Again, you were smacked once you got home.
For embarrassing the good family name in front of
aforementioned teacher. Twice.
I miss home.
Home where the giraffes can eat from your hand
at the giraffe center in Nairobi.
Home where Bomas of Kenya dances were still
the most entertaining pieces of traditional folk dancing
ever witnessed by school children on our ubiquitous field trips.
Home where we grew up solidly on Fanta, Maandazi, Samosas,
Krest, Coca Cola and, yup, Nyama Choma. Now that was a diet.
Home where Big-G, Goody-Goody, Orbit, Patco and those long,
slender, green hard candies (menthol flavored or mint?) ruled over us.
Home of the thousand but one-named Mama-Meyis who planted themselves
and their jikos outside any primary school to sell their roasted maizecobs heavily
basted with a healthy dose of mango-lemon-chili-pepper.
Mama-Meyis would also cut up the best mangoes ever and slather on the chili-pepper.
All for 2 shillings. And a stomachache later. And then later, a lecture from Mom
on why one should
refrain from purchasing street-vendor foods
from the side of the street after school.
I miss home.
Home where I learned to love Pac, Lost Boys, Queen Pen, MC Lyte, Mos Def
almost as much as I loved Bob, Sean Paul (before ‘Give me the light’ fame) and reggae.
I miss home.
Home where almost everyone in sight is the same color as me,
and nobody thinks I have an accent.
Maybe a ‘weng’ but that is through no fault of mine; I speak proper English.
My mom is an English teacher.
I miss home.
Home where Swahili and English come together in a mash up known as Sheng,
and it does have it’s own dictionary.
Home where anything you could ever want or need,
including that double-edged Somali sword to scare off potential suitors
to your yet unborn girl-child,
can be found at Garissa Lodge in Easich; Little Mogadishu.
Dollars, swords, pesos, microwaves can be found there too.
I miss home.
Home where, though we were raised Catholic, I could go
over to Zaitun’s or next door to Swaki’s family and
have Ramadhan or Id-il-Fitr food (pilau) or Diwali sweets.
Home where I picked up my conversational Arabic,
and where Monsieur Thom taught me Parisian French.
Home where we embraced Staedtler pencils,
once rejected by our British colonialists
for being a little too “German” made.
Home where we drive around in Citroens, Peugeots,
Volkswagen Golfs and that Uhuru car from the 80’s.
I miss home.
Home of Tusker, the best beer in the world if you ask
any Kenyan beer-drinker.
Home of Pilsner, White-Cap, Guinness. All beer. It’s a beer nation as
much as it is a Rugby and Soccer nation.
Home of Floodies; Flood-lit Rugby matches.
Home of ‘no-last-call’ at the bar.
Home of tots instead of shots.
Home of ‘…na jana kuliendaje?’ (And, yesterday, what happened?)
I miss home.
Home of Win-a-Car Disco Competition; the absolute forerunner
to ‘So you think you can dance..?”
Home where we gathered around the bi-channel telly to catch
Remington Steele, ABC Moonlighting, Vioja Mahakamani, Music Time
Mission Impossible (the series), Usiniharakishe
and OMO-Pick-a-Box Competition.
Man, I miss home.
There’s nothing like a dawn in Nairobi,
especially after a long night out.
It’s 4 am and I wish I was heading to KenChic right now,
for a newspaper-ful of Chips and those Farmer’s Choice sausages.
Take away, please.

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