For those who have seen me in recent times, they have noted the mini afro I am trending. It is an awesome feeling. The last time I had an afro was on 31st August 2008 around 7pm. My friends Edward and Dominic watched it get trimmed. It would be the last time in a long while it would be that long. The following day, I would be reporting to boot camp for my military training…
“Around this hour, exact same day, exact same date, 2008. I alighted from an Eldoret Express bus, a light bag on my shoulders & set out in search of a hotel room to spend the night…
It would be a short night…
Plan C was in motion
“Tomorrow will be a new beginning”
Before I explain what this #Pigstory is all about. Listen to this…
That was the SM update earlier this morning around 2am. Ignited the story that I have taken ages to tell. You remember how I joined the military right? I am not yet done with the story, it gets retold bit by bit. So after shaving my hair, I was excited about leaving home. That was part of me. The other part was not as excited to face this new and mysterious life. Sunday came went to church as usual. Sunday school specifically. I knew I wouldn’t be seeing these kids for quite a long while. Its like they were sensing something was going to change because they were unusually attentive that day. They were not as intractable as they used to get in the other days. I also taught with extra verve that day. It is like I had been sentenced to death and the Sunday school was my jury to revert the sentence. I told them I would be leaving for “higher studies” ha ha… and Sunday school ended. They were inquisitive as usual and I tried to answer their questions to the best of my ability while still trying to conceal my destination later. I met the youth group that I was the leader then, again bid them my goodbyes, it was so ‘small’ there was no need of hiding the truth from them. Again they were part of the ‘miracle’. It seemed like trying to hide something from Jesus himself. Wished everyone all the best. Little did I know I was the one who needed all these wishes.
I didn’t go back home after church, I had my bag with me. These are the tricky and untold bits of this story. My dad did not know what was happening, we were not in such excellent terms back then (This situation has since changed). So after church and bidding farewell to my Sunday school kids, my youth group and a few other important people, Kerugoya stage direct. But I was not alone. I was with my mother, she took me to Embu. At Embu, I was to meet with my uncle who would take me to Eldoret. (I feel like I have told this before) But no… I am not also sure if I have coz it was supposed to be top secret until I publish a book… for reasons I ‘might’ state later. This was the longest time I would be away from home since birth. 9 months… Fanatical, I know… I never knew Eldoret and I wouldn’t have gone alone. The calling letter had clearly stated all recruits should have reported to the recruit’s training school by midday of 1st September 2008. My mum wouldn’t take me coz she also hadn’t gotten to Eldoret before. I know she would have if only she had the means.
I wasn’t Kenyan and I wasn’t a soldier at this point in life. For two weeks I and other 2500 or so Kenyans were ‘aliens’, all we had was this sheet of paper called “Calling Letter” that would act as our identity and entry to the Recruits training school. The Identity cards had long been taken away. My mum gave me pocket money… and hugged me goodbye. God!!! This was sentimental!!! You just give up your son to go where 10% of lives are considered as write offs!(In lay man terms, it is allowed for 10% of people to “succumb” to the hardships of training – if you know what I mean. Try 10% of 2500… Teren…) None of my children should cite military enlistment to me, unless they want to experience that. I might reconsider though… My uncle is in the military and I should clarify that in no way did he have anything to do with my getting an opportunity into the service. He had given me a few tips that I shouldn’t take much with me. The government would facilitate the rest. The feeling was exciting… Chris… Soldier huh… Pensacola things… Military Aero Engineer… a man could dream. However, deep inside there was still this boy who was being taken to school by his guardian. We boarded a Matatu to Nairobi. It was a tense journey we weren’t talking much. My uncle and I… we are both introverts. It was going to be a long journey.
|Accra Road. Nairobi
We got to the city of Nairobi. The famous Tea Room – Accra Road. Mt Kenya region’s terminal A. We didn’t have much to do besides lunch. We went to Pals Restaurant. Awesome food they got. It still exists to this day and I pass by on my way to the swimming pool after mass on Sundays. It is at the end of Accra Road. Across the road from Modern Coast bus Offices and those Tanzanian buses that are always packing loads of luggage. After lunch we walked along what I would later learn was River road. This street will never change. Motorcycle shops, noise from music shops, Asian & Indian retailers of water pumps, generators and solar panels etc… It was on a Sunday, I cannot remember any hawkers. The only words I think I remember were my uncle saying “Masaa yetu bado naona iko sawa” “According to our timing, we are still within time. I remember crossing Race course road, and then again Haile Sellasie the Connecting roundabout to Ring Road and then we were at Machakos bus. I had seen enough of Machakos bus on Tv over holidays, so I was pretty much familiar with the hullaballoo. These matatu people know their trade and from the look of things, they knew thousands of Kenyans would be using the buses to travel to Eldoret. We got a bus, – Eldoret Expressboarded and I am sure I wrote down the plates somewhere in my notebook. I will not search for it now though. I am trying to beat a deadline. Fares were hiked offcourse. It was around 4ish in the evening.
|Machakos Bus/ Country Bus Terminus
I remember little about the journey, my uncle allowing me to sit by the window on the left side. So that I could see the Rift Valley well. Our trips to the Rift valley while in high school had less of sight seeing because I was busy kneeling on the seat and talking to the beauties behind the seat I was on n etc… I remember there was a lot of excitement around the bus… All these were recruits I later figured. They were all excited about this. I settled to my seat and watched the beautiful scenery around me as we zoomed past Kangemi, the next section I committed to memory was the escarpment at the viewpoint and then I think I dozed off at some point coz of the heavy lunch. When I woke up it was dark and we were at a stop over in Nakuru. I can show you where it is it is common… But I cannot tell the name. The bus started its journey again. It was pointless trying to stay awake. I couldn’t see anything as much as I wanted to. That is why I have to do that road again by day.
We got to Eldoret somewhere within the hours of 1am and 2am. I cannot be specific. It was kinda cold. We got to a deserted Eldoret Stage. I remember the first thing I saw was Barng’etuny (I am not sure whether it was towers or building). We set to searching for a hotel room to spend the night and we found an overpriced double after trying out several that were already full. After placing my bag on the bed, my uncle invited me for a drink. This would be the last alcoholic drink I would be seeing in a long while. Back then, I used to be an ‘Imara kama Simba’ person. Pilsner was my thing. I had two. We had talked for a while. All encouragement and fuelling me to stay sturdy throughout the training. I definitely needed it. He also told me not to back out however tough it got – it was going to be easy. We went back to our double room; I took a shower and got to bed. I remember seeing a Gideon’s bible on the table next to the tiny lodging soaps and I wanted to get comfortable so that I could reach out to it and read a random verse before bed, but I was too tired to even get that comfy. Next thing I knew I was being woken up.
I took a shower and wore the same clothes I had the previous day. He assured me there was no need for fresh clothes. He was right as I would later learn. We went to a hotel, which was again a problem since all seemed to be full and had no space. Eldoret was full of these annual visitors. I had several mandazis and tea and then we boarded a Matatu to the recruits training school. My mind was too deep in thought to look at the surrounding area.
You couldn’t miss it along the way to Kitale. The Entrance to The Recruits Training School, which I would later learn was called “Matumo Road”. It was like a car bazaar of sorts, I cannot even tell it well. There were so many people there, mostly friends and family of recruits. They had come to see their sons and daughters off to military school. It then got clearer as we walked closer. Immediately on alighting, there were soldiers already in these so attractive green combat fatigues that were already ordering the recruits to follow their directions. There wasn’t much to talk with my uncle since we had talked all that we had to. He only told me “Nyinyi mwende mng’ang’ane” “You go and push it hard*” From, his tone and the idea of a smile that came through to his face to this nephew of his… I figured this was not the Ngong’ Forest’s – Rowallan Scouts affair that I had undergone a few years back while in high school… (I couldn’t hug him… It was awkward… and didn’t really feel like a farewell) After bidding him goodbye, I started walking in the direction of Matumo road… I spotted my High School Principal – The Late Henry Raichena, (May he rest in peace) and went to say hi. He didn’t seem like he recognized me at first, but my clearance year seemed to jog his memory. He also wished me the best of luck. (To this day, I have never know who he had come to see off/ escort)
So with my small back pack, I walked towards the gate… WEEeee!!! I assure you it was not a walking affair, I had ceased being my mother’s and father’s property. Calling letter in hand, we were ordered to run the next 200 or so meters to a ground where other recruits were in the usual line sitting position. Forget the chilly Eldoret morning, or the dew. (Woe unto those with vacation-size suitcases). Running with those things was chaotic!!!
“Faster!” The soldiers said…
“Wewe ni mali ya jeshi sasa, mama na baba wako huko nyuma!”
“You are the military’s property now, your parents are behind there!”
I looked around for my team, slightly panting, feeling my tea and mandazi surging in my throat; I sat down (You know that position right?) behind the guy who would later turn out to be one of my great and alien-crazy friends – Ben…
I don’t promise a continuation though…