Somehow the 3 hour journey (where it should take 1) home today in the torrential rain, squashed at the back of the matatu between the fat-lady-with-the-big-red-bag and the father-with-his-6-year-old-son-squashed-on-his-knee suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. The slapping across town with mud squelching between my toes and rain running down my neck to catch my next vehicle – knowing the worst of the jam is yet to come – doesn’t quite frustrate me as much.
You showed me the place you call home today.
We walked there, slipping through the mud and inhaling the smell of the local-brew that has such a pungent odour you can feel drunk without even taking a sip. The men outside sat drinking from zesta tins. No glasses in this place. Those that are with it enough to talk called out and tried to grab as we walked past – not so used to the white visitor in that place, I guess.
We reach your place.
As you humbly offered me a jerrican to sit on, and your aunt offered to buy me a soda I took in the surroundings. Rusted sheet iron walls. Plastic tarpaulin roof. The imprints of your little mudding feet sticking to the floor. An area just about big enough to fit in a bed to accommodate your mum’s ‘business’.
You introduce me to your aunt and baby cousin. Who also share the space with you, your mum and whoever your mum brings home that night. We sit, we chat and I hold your precious baby cousin praying blessings over him – you too – under my breath.
It’s not a bad place, as such. You smile, you seem happy. You go to school and you come to after-school club. And if I compare it to those children I passed this morning, scouring the rubbish heaps for bits of scrap plastic. Or to those I know who shelter under little shop stalls at night, sleeping with one eye open, aware of the danger the darkness can bring.
But still, as I sit, stuck in Nairobi jam, cursing the rain, uncomfortable in my soaked clothes, struggling to find oxygen in the stuffiness of the vehicle crammed with too many people, I come to realise that somehow, I don’t have it so bad. I eventually make it home. I shower in hot water, knowing full well that that tarpaulin wouldn’t be much shelter in this storm. I put my soaked, smelling clothes in the washing machine. Then I sit down within the comfort of my four dry walls, sipping a cup of tea allowing it to warm my bones.
And I realise that today I have learnt a little bit of perspective. And I hope that tomorrow I will carry it with me.