Monday, November 25, 2013

Ferdinand Omondi: WHY I MISS THE VILLAGE

Ferdinand Omondi: WHY I MISS THE VILLAGE: I was last seen in the vicinity of my Rural home in 2010. I actually didn’t know it was that long until my shamba-boy ...


I was last seen in the vicinity of my Rural home in 2010. I actually didn’t know it was that long until my shamba-boy called me last month and told me to get him a torch- when I get there as I have planned this year. I reminded him rather curtly that the last time I was there I left him my own torch! That is when he laughed, rather amused, and told me, ‘Boss, do you know when you last came here? That was in 2010! That torch has seen a lot since then!’
Now, to stay away for so long until an electronic device you bought rests in peace, that has to be bloody long. More importantly, the significance of having a torch back in the rural areas reminded me of the many things I used to enjoy back in the rural areas, which town has deprived me of.
         You see, much of my rural home has stayed rural. And I mean rural. There some rural homes that comes fully equipped with cabro, electricity, Cable TV and even G4S. Goodness me, there is no difference when you leave your crib in the City and when you go home-save for the traffic jam! Ok if u call Thika or Kiambu shaggs I can’t really help you. Otherwise, Keep the rural areas rural for rurals’ sake! A change of environment needs to be a total solar eclipse, not a crescent moon!
And so, in the spirit or rural nostalgia, here are a few things I used to enjoy in Oyugis, which are now in the annals of Zilizovuma. No Thanks to civilization.
1.   Guavas.
This fruit is, or was, as common as houseflies in those rusty nyama choma shacks. We used to snack Guavas. At times, Guavas could have been breakfast, brunch, lunch, 4 o’clock tea..! It was free, and readily available. It grew every-where. We were never short of vitamin C.  The roughness of the seeds cleaned our mouths. In return, we became agents of guava germination and distribution- the guava seed is engineered to withstand the heat of your digestive sytem, so eventually when it comes out anywhere apart from a latrine, it will grow! I believe the birds were meant to spread the seeds this way, but in the village people tend be birdy. They divert to the nearest bush or farm when pressed..and drop it like it’s hot. And soon a seedling.
2.   Fetching water from the Wells
This was one of the chores women mostly did, but boys usually joined in, especially for the livestock. During the dry season, some wells would dry, and the search for the precious liquid would take us a li’l further. The mission was to fill a 200 litre drum. It meant balancing 20-litre jerrycans full of water in either hand, over as far as 1 or 2 kilometres, doing about six trips. It was physical education disguised as a chore. Until we bought a wheelbarrow.
         The joy of the trips lay in meeting the girls at the water point, where we would crack jokes, give one another ‘the look’ and the sharpest of boys would discreetly arrange for a ‘hook up’ later.

3.   Village Hook-ups.
Forget Facebook inboxes, Twitter DMs, Tujuane. These platforms have turned men into sissies, and women into very easy lays. There I said it.. In the old days the input to get a woman was worth a research paper. First you had to deal with public awareness, i.e. if you walked beside a woman, we would be aware that you are tuning her, and if she became pregnant, you would be the first suspect. So no one dared talk to a woman face to face. To chat a woman, boys would
a.    walk on either side of the road with the target, both looking ahead but the boys spewing lyrics frantically. Side by side would raise awareness. The girl would either be headed to the market or from the posho mill. After a few hundred metres of non-face-to-face negotiation, a deal may be struck.
b.   In case the pair was bold and dared to stop and talk, still little eye contact was made. The boys would be looking at some trees while talking, with occasional glances at the girl. The girl would be drawing portraits trees or maps on the ground with her feet.
c.    In town, or on market days, it would be time to impress. Dress smartly. Talk to her. Buy her a soda.. In the 80s a soda in the rural areas was a big deal; like Java Coffee or Creamy Inn Ice cream. Today a man sits down with a woman to have that coffee, in shags a boy would buy a girl a soda at a kiosk and watch her drink! No kidding. And believe me, it opened doors. Either way, if a deal was struck, we would have number 4.

4.   The Date.
Striking a deal was the easy part. Getting a girl to your crib was the hard one. Remember those days when dignity, social discipline existed? When every adult was a guardian over every kid? I lived in those days, albeit as a clueless 7-13 year old. Today the walk of shame is part of the weekend calendar. When it started the rule was you had to be out of a man’s house latest 8AM, or if u were ugly, before sunrise. Nowadays a girl shamelessly walks out at 2PM, neighbours watching knowingly from the balconies..but I digress.
     At home no woman walked openly out of a young man’s hut (we called it the ‘Simba’ in Luo Land) unless she was married to the guy . The Simba is first of all in your dad’s boma. There must be only one cock. Plus the awareness issue lingered. So what did we do?
We called it “Ong’ora”. A stealthy, night operation to get the girl out of her house, take her to the Simba, do your thing and get her back. A pre-determined signal would then be used to sneak her out, like throwing a small stone on the roof where she spends the night. If it was a grass-thatched house, a boy would stand at a strategic distance, and flash the torch once or twice as previously agreed. These signals must be done at an agreed time of the night. It had its risks, like drawing the attention of both the woman and her parents and brothers, or the pesky watchdog. Unforeseen circumstances included hailstorms, which would not only get u wet, but would render your stone signal useless. But when you pulled it off, it was totally worth it.

5.   DISCO
Do we even have disco anymore? Not in the manner I remember. In the village disco music was purely ceremonial. We danced in the rare parties, when the likes of Cadillux Disco, Omega One or Cobra 7 came calling. We danced during Christmas n the New year, often to Nyatiti, Orutu or my grandfather’s accordion. How I wish he passed me those skills; He was as good as Munishi, if not better.. Most commonly, we danced on the night after a funeral. We called it “Tie Dero”. Mercy Myra actually sang a song by that name. Tie Dero means by the granary, which was usually the place where the DJ would place his machines as we danced in open space.
     Tie Dero had its rules. Boys who went there had an option to dance, but had to pay to dance with any girl, hata kama umekuja na yeye. Girls had no option but to dance. All girls would be lined up in a row, and whoever had money would be charged to dance with them. This is how the DJ made his money. The charges were like mobile money tariffs; 2 shillings per minute, 50 cents for 20 seconds,.,, it depended on the DJ really, who would stop the music at any time and demand for whatever amount. The most popular girl would be the subject of an auction, and the highest bidder would dance until someone paid more. Of course some girls ended up in some Simba afterwards. But they would be home by 5.30.
We walked for kilometres in search of Tie Deros, often led by the sound of music filtering through the night winds, so we armed ourselves at night. It was therefore not unusual to see a man on the dancefloor, gyrating furiously, with his akala slippers in one hand and machete in the other.
There is no shortage of memories that made shaggs so nostalgic, including the 5-kilometer “strolls” in the evening with the boys. No wonder village boys are always so fit. Some of the practices have since died a natural death, like the Tie Dero, and the Ong’ora. We exported our brazenness to the rural areas and they too have “chanukad’. Often with disastrous results, because it remains a lot harder to buy a condom in the village kiosk than at the Late Night Pharmacy in town. Hospitality has also declined, largely because of the economy, but also because even in rural areas relatives and friends are growing more distant. No longer can you branch into any home and ask for drinking water. Neither will u always be welcomed with a calabash or Uji and plate of sweet potatoes at every home you drop by. Instead, when you’re from town, almost every acquaintance expects you to leave something behind for them - the boys, a 20 bob for chang’aa or marijuana, the men, a 50bob for the same, or more to get the vet. But I always look forward to leaving something for the women. It is always for a kilo of sugar, or medicine for the children; something constructive.
     I am going back to shaggs this year, even for a day. To take a torch to Okoth the shamba boy, to see how my livestock are doing, and to breathe the priceless fresh air.
     I am also looking forward to seeing my maternal grandmother and to explain why I am not married yet; and to politely decline the offers from my aunties to get me a wife – usually a well-behaved village girl, and a graduate of the village polytechnic.