My ‘sweet’ life as an African Child

I grew up upcountry. In a small village nestled within a huge forest (the forest is no more-it was cleared to resettle a population that had been affected by tribal clashes elsewhere). Yes, Marula village. We just moved in from Kisii town where my dad worked. I loved my new little village. It was quite vibrant. Life was good.

Bano, one of the games we enjoyed

My primary school, Marula primary school was about 5kms away, adjacent to the forest. In fact on our way to school, we would play with monkeys and occasionally feed them my break time meal. Once in a while there was word that a wild animal was spotted, profiting us to cancel school until wardens nabbed it, mostly hyenas. 

My school was a new school, I was among the first pupils to join the school. The classrooms were made of mud and iron sheet roof. We started off with three classes;class 1-3, nursery lessons were conducted under a tree. I got to class four before new classes could be built. With limited classrooms, we found ourself taking up our classes at the edge of the forest. I loved the breeze. But I hated the plenty of canes the forest supplied! Our teachers; Mr. Sasaka, Mr Shitoka, Mr. Kimata, Madam Beria and our Head Master Mr. Maina practically depleted the forest!

We were few pupils, about 10-20 in each class. I loved school…. Including school activities such as ‘smearing’-(lucky if you know what I mean because am not about to explain). Most of the pupils never wore shoes, they walked bare feet (I had shoes but sometimes on my way to school I removed and hid them in a thicket so as to fit in with the rest ). You would be isolated for being ‘too rich’. Well I would wear them back on my way back home to avoid being scolded by mama. My sister wore hers throughout and never cared what others would say. (Well, she was special). We all shaved our heads, (though kids of whom their parents were also teachers plaited their hair, talk of mapendeleo-favouritism). The rest of us shaved Jordan! Hair an inch would warrant you canes. You would be sent back home to clear it from your head! We always looked forward to free milk from our then president Moi, commonly know us ‘maziwa ya watu to wa nyayo’. I was significantly part of the school cultural dance group, dancing away my feeble sisal coutured waist, entertaining parents during closing days. 

School girls dancing during a school celebration

Life in the village was fun. We enjoyed playing makora, bano, swings, baishu, skipping rope, chamama and chababa, hide and seek and many other games that had wiered names.  We also loved playing in the rain, again bare feet, and playing with rain water; swimming in it and sliding in the mud! We also loved eating the hailstones that dropped from heavy rains. (They were so cold in the mouth-I loved the feeling). Oh yes, my childhood games were fun! Quite fun! How we engulfed the whole village with screams while playing!

Saturday’s were good days to fetch firewood; from the forest of course. While collecting firewood, we hunted for wild fruits, played hide and seek, and all sorts of games. We however hurried back home before dawn, because any minute after the sun sank on the west meant a beating from mama!

On other Saturdays my friends and I would raid ‘mean’ neighbors homesteads who would rather their fruits ripen and fall on their own than share with the kids. We would ‘break’ through the thorny fences and steal. Lucky if you were never nabbed! I was always nabbed and got a double beating-from the brutal neighbor then another one at home, from mama! I threw in a towel when our delinquency was reported to Mr. Maina who feasted on us on the parade on Monday. 

As a teenage girl, I leaned a lot of chores, doing dishes, doing laundry, looking after cattle especially when my brother ran off to play. I worked on the farm, I also learnt how to milk cows! My favorite chore was cleaning the house. My elder sister was ‘sickly’-she was spared a lot of chores. (Put an angry face emoji here) Though she loved cooking. She wasn’t a great playmate, she loved reading and always topped  all through the classes-Often called ‘chopi’

My deceased grandmother was awesome! She often gathered us around her three stone cooking fire in the evening for story telling sessions, some a bit scaring, that I stayed awake at night. We questioned her a lot on things we did not understand. She taught us songs, traditional songs. I still remember them, even the stories I can recall them. She taught me how to sit like a girl…. I loved her meals- cooked from a cooking pot, called ‘indabu’  in my local dialect. She also stored water in a huge pot (isongo) in a corner in one of her rooms-for it to cool-it would cool like water in a fridge. I always broke off my play to go quench my thirst there. She was great- I was named after her-and now my daughter resembles her, in every single bit including her walking style. These people never die, they are actually reborn!

I loved everything about my life in the village, including swimming at the forbidden river at the neighboring Marakusi village.

My church was far, about 10kms away, crossing through the forest to a village on the other side, Mlimani. We always went to Sunday school. My grandmother was always late for service sometimes making it when the service is closing-when the priest is dismissing congregants. Hahaha! I used to laugh at her, poor thing! 

Anyways I loved Christmas inter church competitions vs celebrations, commonly know as ‘Malago’. Most of the time I was the conductor for the Christmas ballads representing our church- Our church always topping through the years. If I forget to mention the feeling I had over Christmas then this article should be considered useless! The new shoes, the new clothes, the plenty of food and drinks. Christmas was a day to look forward to and to count down, so was the 1st. Boxing Day was not that big, the new clothes were enough of gifts to receive from parents……..to be continued

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