Military Life: Chapter 13 – Initiation

Previously…

15thday of September 2008 – Two weeks were up! So many things have happened in between the first day and today. I will still tell that part of the story but this one is special. Somehow many of those who keep these things to heart – in a good way tend to remember the details of the day. Well this was the day that everyone used to promise “Ngojeni mababa zenu waende ndio mtajua, hamjui!” (Wait till your fathers leave the premises, then you will know there is nothing you know.) “Hio uraia mko nayo! Tutatoa yote” (All that civilian character you have we will help you change) of course the tone was not the friendliest.
The two weeks that followed after our entering the gates were one of the most interesting. We were told so many stories about how the going would be tough. Stories that were mixed with the fun, smiles and the tears of the military camp. We were all looking forward. Some of the questions that people asked were “Afande, eerrr… ni ukweli watu hukufia, training?” (Sir is it true that people die?), “Ukishindwa unaweza rudi nyumbani?” (Can you go back home if the going gets too tough?) The looks that the instructors gave were too suspicious to be believed as they answered the question. “Untaga kurudi urudi wapi?” “Ugo na gitambulisho saa hii?” So the guy says no. Of course they had taken our Identity cards, there is no way you could go back home. As who? Once the government had taken your ID, there was a lot that had stopped for you on the other side of life. “Kuna kitu inaitwa ten parasent write-off!” I was later to learn that 10% write off is a figure that is given to “people or things that never get to see the final packaging in any ‘manufacturing’ process. – Definitely meant to scare us. However this did not mean death. That is just a myth. This meant some people would run away, others would be expelled or etc. If you know what I mean. “Mutajionea tu! We tulia” “Ngojeni tarehe Kumi na Tano!” (You wait and see, keep calm, you will see on the 15th)
Everyone was excited for the 15th Day of September. Remember we had been given two weeks of orientation. Trust me that orientation was done in 2 hours. That was yesterday, Sunday 14th after lunch and my legs were still aching from the experience. So we were all gathered – each division. I had been placed in Chui by then – rather, by lots I picked myself into Chui. The physical training instructors did the orientation. The camp is big. Approximating with Nairobi & environs stretching from Around Westlands, all the way to Galleria, to Githurai and stretching to Embakasi. That is a rough estimate. So here were running after one instructor and others chasing behind us:
“Oohh Ho!!” (All Halt!) “Chuchumaa!!!” (Squat!)
“Hiyo ndio kanisa! Mumeiona?” (That is the church, have you seen it?!) Now, when you reached a location, you would squat as commanded and pant your lungs out, wishing you would just die!
“Yes sir!”
“Alright!” “Tiyaariiiii GO!” – Then we would run to the next location.
“Chuchumaa Kurutu!” (Squat Recruit!)
“Hii ndio AFCO! Mumeona!”
“Yes Sir!”
“Tiyaariiiii GO!”
“Chuchumaa Kurutu!” “Hii ndio Officers Mess – Out of bound area!” “Wewe Kutikana!” “Aya!” “Tiyari Go!!!”
“Chuchumaa Kurutu!”
“Hii ndio Kasirika Stadium! Mumeona!” “Nani Swali!!??” “Mutajua Kasirika Kesho!!”
“Yes Sir!”
“Tiyaariiiii GO!”
This went on for a few hours till slightly after dusk for supper. That is why my legs were aching.
The D Day.
As promised, this would be the day that we would get the first initiation ceremony into being soldiers. In short ‘Kutoa Uraia’ is eeerrr, Let me try describe ‘Uraia’ in this context in a few words – All pun intended. Uraia is that mentality that gets you thinking you joined a white collar private company or an NGO. Eiiii, the expectation that when you land at the war front, you will get Queen Elizabeth’s palace maids waiting for you with warm water, massages and roast lamb for dinner, or Pizza and Pepsi for the Town breed, it’s the ego & pride that would need you to handle a weapons & yourself like someone protecting a nation, not like someone who is above the law and can end someone’s on command or at will et al… It’s the installation of humility into an individual who in a way could be a ruthless animal at the click of a psychological button or something. The PTIs would be taking us through this. For Chui Division our session would be in the afternoon.
There were basically three sessions in a day. Morning, mid-morning and afternoon. For three distinct & interchangeable lessons. Parade, physical training and class. (Yes, pen and paper kind of class) We started with the opening ceremony as a school, then parade for my group, the instructors in charge of this could not let us rest. All we were doing was “at Ease – attention”. This is just opening and closing your legs. It is not as easy as you may think, – considering your arms were following through in a similar pattern. People have a serious problem with coordination. I will explain the exe in detail later.“Hii ujinga na ukalulu munanifanyia hapa!!! NKT!, Ngojeni saa nane!” (This nonsense you are perfoming! Wait till its two pm, you will see)
The threat was no longer a wait for date 15 affair, it was now a 2pm affair. While going for lunch we could see our friends from Simba Division looking like they were from a battle field. I think death was an option in that field. Kasirika Stadium was an understatement. The tension was high over lunch and some of us did not have appetite at all. We had a ‘special attire’ for physical training. Called “PT Red” it was a red polo like t-shirt that was worn over the combat fatigues & boots, tucked in and ready for action. We headed to Kasirika Stadium on double march singing “One toe! One toe! One toe! One toe! One toe! One toe! One toe!” (of course its 1 – 2) but toe is how it sounded. Our guardian instructors led us to the proverbial ‘slaughter house’ that was Kasirika Stadium and you could tell they were not near happy about what was to happen. I could read their faces.
Enter Kasirika Stadium.
The Somersault.
            We reached the venue and we placed our rifles under shades at the edge of the field and the guardian instructors guarded them. As per protocol the ‘state’ was taken. This is basically the number of soldiers present and if anyone had an issue – medical especially. But remember we all had a clean bill of health. It was such a colorful parade. All in pink except one platoon that had white PT shirts. For them it was PT white. Then the drama started. They explained what we came here to do. Kasirika Stadium is just an ordinary field. Sorry. Not that ordinary. At the time, the grass was knee high, only a section was slashed, by another group in the past weeks. It was slightly larger than Kasarani Stadium, end to end. We were divided into four groups – companies. We started with frog jumps. Very easy, right!? My Friend!!!! The first two jumps are very easy. The rest were just hell!!! Luckily for me, we were doing these things with Dominic & Edd at Kerugoya Stadium in the weeks before recruitment and I was in a pretty good shape. But still this was no pie. But I couldn’t cry. The beatings that followed, Weeee!!! It was like chasing a pack of confused sheep through a paddock. The drama in that field was just a site to behold. One group was rolling and the other one was on Somersaults the other was on press ups. They called it circuit training, when you are done with one, you run to the next point and do the exercise designated for that point. The PTIs were animals!!! *Sobs* The screaming was one from a horror movie. Who would have thought rolling on the grass on your side would be so hard. We used to do it as kids, easily, right mum? Try it someday! We rolled and rolled and rolled… I thought the world was ending. Next were the somersaults. Used to be fun in bed right? Try it on grass for over 200 meters. The effects were disastrous. Disorientation, nausea, pains, head on collisions and head-boot collisions with others. This was a scene I will forever hold dear. People threw up, some peeing on themselves, others crying, others hysterical through the whole process! others fainted & rushed to the ambulances on location, and others just gave up and pretended to be dead! Only resurrecting from state-of-the-art ass spanks that could be heard from a mile away. The press ups were catastrophic for many who had never done such things before. And guess how you rested? Either squatting on the mutilated legs or press up position. “Mlitafuta Kas Kurutu! Sio!?” “Tiyari Go!!!” then you would start again.
            Well I was in all this, but I could not give up. Deep in my mind I was like, ‘if all this is what it will take to be an aeronautical engineer in the Air Force, LETS DO THIS!!!’ And I would roll or somersault to the edge of the field. Then without warning I would get all this screaming with an instructor coming at me like I had killed someone!!! “Kurutu! Hiyo Kiherehere! Ndio hatutaki hapa!” “Rudi huko!!!” Apparently they did not want know it all’s and most of the beatings were to the pretenders and to those know it all’s who acted like they been doing it all their lives. The dream kept me going. I got a black eye from banging head on with someone who we crossed rolling paths with, and another kick to my stomach while on the somersaults. I also got spanked for trying to act all porn star on the grass with the press ups – if you know what I mean. Here the first lessons of anger management, resilience, endurance et al were laid out. The impossibilities lie I our mind. At some point I was sure this is my last roll and then I faint or even die. That moment I was kicked in the stomach I knew I had made a fatal life mistake to enlist, as I was struggling to catch my breath and I almost threw the towel. But on realizing the boots that got to me belonged to a lady who was clearly shedding tears through the exercise but still going strong, I got a burst of energy and kept moving on. If a lady could do this, why not me. The ladies motivated us through the months that followed. They were strong and they held on. The particular one whose boots & my stomach introduced themselves before I “met her” is currently in one of the 3 bands; one of those beautiful ones in the rear ranks – No further details.
            Anyway, after flattening the grass, we hated those two hours but then, after we limped our way back to the barracks, almost dragging our heavy riffles to the armoury we realized that was one of the most exciting times so far since we got into this camp. Of course we feared Kasirika Stadium and the PTIs who we only saw for two hours a day. That is how 15th of September joined my many ‘rebirth’ days. That was one hell of an initiation, and the start of one of my life’s greatest adventures!

 

Dedicated to all my Kasirika Mates & PTIs.

Chapter 14
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