Everything is happening so fast now. We don’t even know why we are still seated on the tarmac because it has been a while since anyone was called. Rumor has it that they have discovered another fraud case. By now we are winding up the second week. The enlistment process takes a while. There is a lot of confirmation going on by now – more than before. That is, the recruitment officers are auditing their recruits and ensuring they have been enlisted. Now more frequently than before, after every 30 or so minutes there was an officer passing by and counting us. It was possible to be enlisted into a service that you were not recruited into.
My friend Barry – my fellow Kirinyaga recruit, the one who says I tricked him regarding the running strategy so that I could defeat him at recruitment… That one. According to the air man, while it was our turn to run (That is the 5 Km run that would further eliminate potential recruits during the recruitment), I told him that we should jog the first few minutes and then when we return we would run like athletes on the final stretch on the way back to the finish line. He says I did not jog but played athlete all the way. But I view that scenario differently. In fact, I thought I was collapsing on the way back, the entire Mîringa Îrî shopping center was probably weeping on my behalf. We managed to fight and win our way into the Air Force’s potential list of recruits after that run. But Barry always reminds me of that scenario. Here we are our bums on the tarmac with him. Remember, he was a stranger until we met at RTS again. I was not even remembering him. The way we were seated was a factor of our aptitude test performance. That is why, I am now seated behind him. We are waiting for our numbers. Our service numbers. Our unique identity in the military and in life moving forward.
It’s Barry’s turn to head to the front. I didn’t know what happened out there until I was called. Once you were enlisted, some rights were granted back to you. For instance, the right to a decent seat was restored – the benches on the stands – Just for a while. They had shades – no sunburns my friends. One would head to the front, get their service number and then move to the bench. My turn came, I walked to the front with my bag. I was offered a seat on a desk opposite a beautiful looking Air Force soldier – I almost refused because my brain was playing wash games with me🤦♂️. ‘Like why are they offering me a seat?’ they want to test me…’ 🤔. I hadn’t met a lady in uniform up to this point. Especially one from the Air force. I was already smiling at her until I noticed her partner, a heavy, round faced soldier, rough face, grey mustache, with an almost smiling face who on looking closer was more of an “I will eat you up” face. He was wearing the Kenya Air Force’s Official dress. The nice blue looking outfit you see the Air Force Commander with once in a while. I think he was protecting this lady. She picked my papers from the top of the pile and confirmed my name and ID Number.
I noticed these papers had my certificate, my punched national identity card and other documents including the contract I had signed at the district level several weeks ago. I was given a number that I must admit was a very fancy service number, which continued messing up with my destiny tuned brain – I mean this number might mean a lot. The bulky soldier literally chased me away from the seat and pointed me to the Red Division stands, because it seemed like I wasn’t ready to leave the comfort of this desk. He shouted behind me to forget my Kenyan ID No. and memorize the new number they gave me – It wasn’t gonna be a problem my service number was a poem by itself. When I reached the benches, I was so relieved to be seated. What!!! It was a new life. So we conversed there with the other recruits and this is where I got to meet Recruit Kimani’s wife. Well, all she was at that point was Wambui wa Karate. As we were talking, we realized Barry’s number was different. Of course the first question after getting comfortable was “Number yako ni?” It made for some banter since ours started with 1 and his started with 7. Of course other’s had 7s but no one from the Air Force had 7. While we were trying to figure it out, he just settled that he is the lucky one. Little did our recruit brains know that he had been mis~enlisted. Life went on…
The tallying at this point was to ensure that Army recruit, ends up as an Army soldier and Air Force recruit ends up as an Air Man and Navy recruits end up as sailors. You’re not a recruit or a member of the Kenya Defence Forces in this case, until you’re in the database. The service number is that key to the database. So we are here telling stories waiting for our turn to get into the database – fingers were still crossed🤞🏾. Some of use peeping into Waptrick to check out our inboxes and stupid chatroom banter. I had a catfish account in there by the way. By the name Serena 😉 (Some character I fancied from Neighbors). Nothing much was going on in there, and besides, I was starting a new life. The chat room from my home town Kerugoya was boring because I was not famous enough and outgoing to bring up entertaining stories in there… But, the stories on this bench were crazy. It is hard to tell which were true and which were false. The stories came from both instructors, recruits and our recruiters. Remember at this point our recruiters were our electric fence, our shields and our defenders. They ensured that the helpless antelopes we were, were not consumed by the lions who were the instructors and drill sergeants. Stories have been told and retold that, by this time we are receiving details for the hygiene and grooming standards at the Military camp. A brown Kalenjin instructor who was clearly the Danny Trejo of the trainers only without the occasional daddy smile, was busy telling us of how we would be ironing our shorts and wearing them while they stood on their own on the floor like mud boots. Picture a Khaki short, pressed and placed on the ground and ‘standing’ by itself due to the stiffness… 🤔 The thought of the ironing that would go to that endeavor scared the aspiring soldier inside of me. I wasn’t ready for this. Someone had the balls to actually shout – “Ile uongo mnapeana hapa- Jazz tupu!”. I don’t know how Local Trejo got from the tarmac to the third row (Remember these are stands) He was angrily shouting “Nani huyo!” “Rudia Tena, ghasia!“. He was so pissed I could see his face wrinkles pulsating with anger. “Ngonja mababa zenu waende, mtaamini! Huku sio Highschool Raia!” “Tutawakula na meno mushangae!”
While this brought silence to the stands, a few recruiters gathered while I noticed the instructors looking from their positions but not moving (Please remember this for the future) – They only turned their heads and watched from a distance as Local Trejo threw his tantrum alone (The instructors wished they would come and have “a bite”). We were untouchable. The Recruiters and the military police were our body guards and we were very safe 😂. Very safe my friends. Safer than the president at this particular point. Otherwise, a few weeks later even running faster than the PTIs during PT was a crime. Sneering je? – Ticket to Danakil Depression my friend 🚑. Embarrassed but clearly planning a retaliation, he walked along the third stand, winking to the Somali lady who was not yet ready to let go of her long hair and jumped off the bench at the end. We didn’t see him again. The silence which lasted for about 5 minutes was broken by Maha. Maha was the wildest recruit I have ever met. He was the loudest voice,clearly the most excited and he was always shouting about one thing or the other, telling stories and acting like a clown, like at dawn a few days back. So Maha, is here telling us that we need to move from our siting position for our own safety. I noticed Local Trejo fall in next to his fellow instructors and started telling them something while pointing in our direction.
Maha is convinced that the instructors will come to eat us up later, and they will definitely target the section where we were seated. “Msee, hawa instructors watakuja hapa waseme tuamke sisi wote, Hadi tuseme nani alishoutia instructor.” “Mimi lazima nihame, Kama hamtaki kaeni hapa tu. Hawa watu ni wanyama bana!”. Maha was Gikuyu Kareng’a from Kiambaa, He was quite the politician. He actually switched to Kikuyu, to convince us to move. Remember we were arranged regionally at this point. Still in the enlisting process. So this is a Central Kenya bench. Trust me, we moved after his next train of words. For the stories and the potential entertainment I badly needed as evidenced in his 4 am recital a few days ago, this was the man to follow at this point. I held my bag tighter and moved. I stopped caring about the instructor and settled in to this new position.
Maha had a broad face. His mouth was wide, teeth out, always bright and definitely open telling a story or a lie. I suspected lies most of the time. We had just settled and reintroduced ourselves. I mentioned this thing that when I meet someone who looks interesting or funny or something, something inside, tells me that we will be friends at some point. As in something in my spirit kinda likes the person and we end up being in the least acquaintances. Like Liam. Maha fell into that same category. Though not as close as Liam lately. We had just sat and kind of surrounded him and he was already telling us what to expect. “Wacha hivo unaona wakismile na nyinyi hapa, hawa watatukaanga tusahau nyumbani!” Niliambia Jamaa fulani juzi asahau bibi ama bibi amsahau” We all burst into laughter. This man was a real clown. “Unajua hawa wasee watatufunza hadi kuoga?” “Naskia tunapewa kila kitu hadi ngotha na tufunzwe hadi kuoga.” In my mind, I am wondering ‘We have been here for only a week and you know everything.’ Gus interjected with his Kirinyaga dialect Kikuyu laced with his soft voice. “Ú mbeni nyingî mûno nawe, tûtigithie!” (You have so many lies, let us be.) “Haiya… Nîguo mani!” (Hey! It is true man!) “Toria… Úrîa, (Looking for some imaginary back up guy to confirm it for us) Ta mere…” There was no one to back him up 🙄. That is how I confirmed lie number x of very many others to come. And so he demonstrated to us on those stands how we would be showering. He actually stood up and in my mind I’m like: ‘Na si upewe uniform basi uturain’. Meanwhile everyone around was amused and clearly having a good time. His stories knew no end. He was like a school boy who was repeating a class, someone who knew everything and was ready to share it with everyone. The only person who could interrupt him was an instructor walking by. That is the only time he would tone down and then burst into gear again starting another fiction tale.
Time had passed and stands were more populated than earlier. I hadn’t noticed that Local Trejo had moved and he was right under our noses. He was standing at the tarmac right next to where we were laughing like boys just from a muddy river skinny dip. The stand went silent. but Maha was confident enough to shout a “Kwisha Sisi” before he looked forward his lips struggled to cover his teeth which couldn’t stop showing from the smile forming from his mouth. Local Trejo seemed calm, but the fact that he was surrounded by two recruiters and 3 military police in their green reflectors and red berets made us all think we were about to be sent home that afternoon. I looked around I knew the end has come. 😬 “Habari ya saa hii Kurut…” silence. I assumed that by the fact that he didn’t even care finish the name Kurutu meant this one was not a friendly conversation he was here for. “Eeeh… Hamna sauti ama nini? – Afande Hawaongei!” Military Police Officer 1: “Eehh!! Kila Mutu Simama Juu!!!” I was ready to evaporate at that moment. But I stood up first. “Habari yenu? Ingawa nyinyi ni raia, hii ni kambi ya kutoa sauti…” “Inaeleweka jameni?” we responded “Yes Sir” in unison. Haya basi…. Silence. The recruiter spoke next “Wapi hii mutu inaitwa Barry Kirabo?” Silence… “Haiya, hakuna Barry Kirabo hapa!?” “Ama hii sio team X?“
I was not ready to die here a civilian after coming all this way and almost dying at river Rutui while running to secure my spot in the Air Force. I almost looked at Barry, but he had found his voice… I was ready to point him out… “Ni mimi sir…”
But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)