Military Life Chapter 9. Realities of Unfair Men ~ Women Ratio

Previously

A pack of men walking towards one girl… This is not happening again, I told myself. I was experiencing some Déjà vu kind of experience here. Flash back to high school days. The ever-popular Festivals. I could have used these other random funkies, but no. Music festivals. The only difference here is that there appeared to be more girls than boys. However, there had to be competition because there were girls who were more beautiful than others. It was a common occurrence to see guys from different schools approaching a pack of girls or two or 1 girl. This was the exact scenario. So, I was at it again.
It was ‘illegal’ to ‘breeze’ aka ‘kubarizi’ while in high school. There was no way you could go to a festival or any function with girls and then you end up walking the fields alone. It was an abomination to get back to the bus without a name; a full name (The address would be automatic). I learnt early and perfected my skill by my first month in school. Therefore, at the funkies, there was no way you could walk back once you made the first step to approach a girl. No matter how many men are headed in that direction. This is why there arose fights & beatings from some schools who would not just allow the ‘cool kids’ to take away all the ladies at the funkies. & snatched them we did. It was too embarrassing to some of those guys. Tell me if you can handle a youngish looking boy (I don’t know why upcountry schools had students who looked older) in a short (Yes Kinyasa!) taking your ‘prospect’ right after you spent your money on chips and sausage just at the last moment of getting the second name. This is why when some of us saw 3 or more of those guys with those long, odd looking dancing sticks used for folk dances, we turned the other way to avoid a confrontation. Beef was inevitable.
The case here was different. It was not me against a Busherian or a Patcherian. It was just Chris against the rest of these clowns I did not know. Therefore, I kept walking, but at a slower pace, even removed my Ka-C168 and pretended to be very busy on it. We all got there at the same time. I wanted to look like I just got there by mistake out of the distraction by the phone. I then started eavesdropping on the conversations that arose. The girl was beautiful – or my mind was playing games on me. Three of these guys were from the rift valley and they appeared to be friends. With their heavy accent, I choked inside in a muffled laugh. The two others were from Nyeri, deep with their Kikuyu accent. Some of the guys had fallen out of this ‘attack the girl’ formation and were probably returning to base. I walked behind them clicking on my hash button on the C168 so that it could look active and still on. So 3 dark skinned guys on the left and 2 Kikuyus from the right. I could not have told which team the lady was, but she was dark skinned – a black beauty and since she was headed in the Simba accommodation direction, I bet she was among team 1 – 3. Plenty of time, I got, if I kept up to this.
The Nyeri guys went first: & I swear I saw them nudge each other! Approaching a girl is no piece of cake ei?
Team Nyeri: “Niaje mlebooh?” (“Hi, beautiful?”)
Girl: “poa” (“Ok”)
The Three for one (Team gang bang ringing in my head) went “Sasa” (“Hi”)
Team RV: “Tukusaidie mizigo?” (“Can we help you with your luggage?”)
Girl: “Niko sawa” (“I am okay.”)
She was not ‘sawa’ in any way, who wouldn’t see that! She was uncomfortable and was almost limping, she had been rained on, her brown braids wet, (She probably hadn’t read the memo! No hair styles of any kind. Preferably shaven) her blue top clinging to her body like Satan on a sinner, her black pencil looking like someone over-drunk last evening and spent in a ditch. They still made her awesome. Curves from another planet et al. The mud on her black shoes was unbelievable. It was as if she went digging after we ate lunch.
Team RV: “Wacha tukusaiitie ufiike” (“Let us help you reach your destination”)
Girl: Silence
Team Nyeri: “Na si umenyeshewa sana?” (“Looks like you have been really rained on!”)
Girl: “Ata wewe, kwani” (“You too”)
Team Nyeri: “Utapata homa na sio poa” “Nikupatie furana, yangu?” (“You will catch a cold and it will not be okay, Can I give you my sweater?”)
Girl: “Niko Sawa” (“I am okay”)
We hobbled on, but I hesitated a bit as we crossed some muddy ditch. People were all over and I used that to keep walking as close to them as I could – like a spy. I could see other beautiful girls from the corner of my eye. Ben & Ray had somehow gotten to talk to the ladies from our district. I think one was Beth or something.  Beth had done nursing I think – so they were regarded as tradeswomen. I don’t know how they bonded with Ben. & he had no competition. For a moment I wished I had a rice paddy too.
The Rift team had started feeling awkward and they started the nudging game.
Team RV: “Umekataa usaidizi, twambie jina bas” (“You have refused we help, tell us your name then”)
Team Nyeri: “Sawa basi kama hutaki Furana,” Baridi imeanza na nguo zimenyeshewa” (“Its okay of you have refused my help and my sweater, the breeze is here and your clothes are already wet”)
Girl: “Asante lakini” (“Thanks though”)
Team Nyeri: “Unaitwa nani?” (“What is your name?”)
Girl: “Chey-bay”
Team RV: “Kumbe wewe ni mkwetu?” (“So you are one of us?”)
Team Nyeri: “Ati nani?” (“Say what?”)
It took time to sink in for me as well. Chebet was her name. The accent was so deep and I later learnt the name had a certain swag to its pronunciation. So… Chebet huh. Team RV – 3 : Team Nyeri – 0.
Team RV: “baaas, mkwetu! Mimi naitwa Row~noh, huyu ni Koehh…, na mwenzetu Kori…” atleast this is what I heard, accents and shyness considered. (“Voila! Our blood, I am Rono, this is Koech and our friend Korir”)
Case: If you have never left your district before, you would never have heard of the name Chebet, so it would never click (I thought to myself).  Again being from Nyeri, by the time the brain has cleared the fog off the ‘Ch’ and the ‘Sh’ challenges, the members from the big trench were steps ahead.
Rono: “Kikurenenen Chebet?” (“You are Chebet for Real?”) Kalenjin*
Chebet: “Sindio”
Korir: “Karanan noon” (“That is good”)
Koech: “Chamgei Chebet” (“How are you Chebet?”)
Rono: “Iyopuu ano?” (“Where are you from?”)
Rono: “Inye ko inenyon mesich waziwazi” (“Don’t be worried, you are one of us”)
You could see the excitement in their faces. Actually the walking style changed…
I just couldn’t believe it!!! Team Rift Valley – 187 : Team Nyeri 0
My two friends from Nyeri as clueless as never recorded before, went on their way. I also peeled off from my spy game. I did not belong anymore since I could not get any more from that conversation.
I could not interrupt Ben and Beth. Gus was missing and Ray was nowhere to be found as well. So I kept walking. Went round the nicely arranged accommodation halls. They were mostly built of wood. Three courses (Kothi Ithatu) Ha ha from the floor, came the wood, they were all painted white with the distinct red representing ‘Simba Division’. They also had numbers. Platoon 1. Platoon 2, Platoon 3. And so on and so fourth. I was later to learn they went up to platoon 48 or so, all divisions included. For years, 90% of the people who pass through and who will graduate through that establishment will tell you a ‘Platoon’ is the name of a hall that houses soldiers or recruits for that matter. What it meant was this hall accommodates Platoon 1, or this hall accommodates Platoon 25. Since a platoon is a military unit that is composed of more than two sections. In this case 3 sections. Then a section could have 8 – 10 soldiers. So my friends… A platoon is not a dorm or a house.
I stopped by the Tin structure at the middle of the Division’s common grounds. This was the canteen. It was open. People were already buying soap, toothpaste, shoe polish. I already had mine. I think I had Ksh 900/- (Worst case scenario 100 bob per month) as pocket money. But I was not in need of anything. So I just leaned on the metallic wall and watched how people were doing.
Suddenly a voice came through!
“Eiii!!!! Eiii!!!! Eiiii!!!!!”
“Sikiiza Kutoka KwaNGu!” (“Listen to me!”)
The buzz went down immediately only for one girl who caught a joke at the wrong moment and was left laughing alone.
“Wee mwanamke utanyamasa ama urudi kwenu! Blal!” (“Shut up you woman or you will get back to where you came from!” *Curses*)
Everyone burst into laughter. She was not even 21 and that term ‘Mwanamke’ just sounded off.
“Mnacheka nini?!!!” (“What are you laughing at?”)
It was calm in an instant again. His voice was loud and from his size, you wouldn’t want to mess with him
“Hii upusi ndio hatutakagi hapa!!!” (“This is the nonsense we don’t like here”)
“Haya Sikiza!!!” (“Listen up!”)
“Hizi nyumba ni za mandume!” “Wanawake Na Wamama, Mtaonyeshwa Zenu hukooo, MbaRi!!!”
“Hapa hamjakuja kuzaana!” (“These houses belong to the men, for the women and the mothers, you will be shown yours, far from here, you did not come here to breed”)

“Kwa hivyo kila mtu atafute mahali pa kulala, alafu mkujie chakula, Exercise ni kama ya mchana! Mistin ni mbili! panga rine uko! kura umalrize! pea mwenzako mkebe!” “Tumekubaliana!?” (“So Everyone look for a place to sleep and then come for your food. Same exercise like lunch time, two Mess Tins, make a line and eat fast. Then pass your tin to your friend, Agreed!?”)
Silence.
“TUMEKUBALIANA?!!!!!!!!” (AM I CLEAR!?)
In a low voice we replied: “Ndio” (“yes”)
“SITAKI UFALRA!!!” (“I don’t want nonsense”)
“KUTOKA REO! UKIONGERESHWA, UNASEMA YES SIR OR YES MADAM!” “SAWA!!!?” (“From today, any response you make, should be followed by Sir or Madam okay!?”)
“Yes Sir!”
“ATTII!!!?”
“YESSSS SSSSIRR!!!”
“Well Done!” “Haya Mkaweke mizigo!” (“Go stow your luggage away”)
We scattered in all directions like prisoners released on government parole. I kept walking not knowing where I was headed until I reached what was labeled Platoon 9. Not so sure. What I am sure of, was, the drawing of a fighter jet. The Naïve me thought, maybe this is the house of aviators. Stupid I was – really. I got inside and was amazed by the neatly arranged rows of metallic double decker beds. Everybody was. I got a bed in the middle, on a wall section that did not have a window. Took the lower deck. The hall was almost 50 windows, the louvre type.
Mother of pandemonium!
“Chege!!! Chege!!!,”
“Maina!!! Nishikie!!!,” (Maina reserve one for me)
“Ngahu!!! ‘nyitira gitada mani!’” (Ngahu, reserve a bed for me man) Kikuyu*
“Oeee! Oeee!!!, Nani ako hapo? Uko na mtu?”  (“Oeee, Who is there? Do you have someone?”)
“Mko na nani?” (“Who are you with?”)
“Juu ni nani?” (“Who is on the top decker?”)
It had turned out a market place, everyone needed a bed.
I removed my wet hoodie and hanged it by the bed rail. Took a black starter jacket from my bag and wore it to keep warm. It was already getting cold. I then sat on the blue Vitafoam Mattress and the words from earlier were still ringing in my ears like a cursed church bell.
Which nonsense now? What had we done?
Recruits training school!
I had dug my own grave!
I had already lost my appetite.
 
(Appreciating G. Korir for the help with the Kalenjin translations.)

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