Home away from Home

The wind huffed, rising the dirt and slowly lifting up her skirt. She used one hand to keep it in place and the other hand to wipe off the thin line of sweat on her forehead.

 

The sun was hot, the land dry and hard. She watched her relatives; four young bare footed black lads walk the herd of over fifty thin emaciated cattle to the fields. They walked fast, each holding a long stick with which they used to keep the moving cattle together.

 

They called out to the cattle, by names and whistled. The dogs ran besides them, tongues hanging out.

 

The home-made small bells hung on some of the cattle rang as they walked and the ringing grew faint as they hurried on.

 

The other side of the hill had green grass and if the cattle were to eat enough, the lads had to get there before mid-day. The sun was already up and it was not yet seven in the morning. She stood in the middle of the compound and gazed at them until she had to strain her eyes to see them.

 

Then, she remembered how sunburned she was the other day and with a sigh, she turned and slowly walked into the house, pausing at the door for a rest.

 

Her house dog- Tiny who everyone called Simba much to her surprise- wagged its tail when she passed it by the door. It looked at her and finding that she was not giving it attention, it turned and walked towards the plains.

 

A few chicken roamed her compound searching for insects that hid in between the brown remnants of what was once green grass.

 

Outside her compound was the cattle boma. There were several grass-thatched huts surrounded by a fence made of broken dry branches of a thorny tree. Two skinny women were spreading a mat on the ground, ready to spread the maize seeds that had been heavily infested by weevils. Three sacks leaned on the mud and cow dung plastered walls of one of the huts.

 

A small grayish cat moved quickly from one of the huts chasing a rat between the sacks. The two women looked at the cat with a little interest before they lifted one of the sacks, emptied and spread the maize seeds on the laid out mat.

 

Right in front of them was the white woman’s house. They called it that, white woman’s house and despite the fact that it belonged to their brother, they felt that it was hers.

 

When he started building it, they voiced their protests. The house costs more than all the cattle they sold to take him to school.

 

However, their pleas for him to buy cattle instead of building the house fell on deaf ears.

 

Made by stone blocks, the house was white washed on the inside and painted a shiny blue on the outside. It had three bedrooms, a living room and an inbuilt bathroom. The toilet still puzzled them, years after it had been built.

 

Some relatives visited just to see the in-house toilet.

 

Its roof was made by red brick tiles and typical of the Maasai community, they started calling the area, the red roofed area.

 

She sat on the sofa and looked at a framed picture that hung at a corner of the wall.

As she looked at it, a tear slid down her cheeks.

 

She missed him terribly. She wanted him to come back as soon as possible but she knew it was three weeks before he would be back.

 

She touched her enlarging stomach, thinking about him.  She wondered whether the baby would look like him, strong and black with a temper or maybe it would be determined and headstrong like she was.

 

As her fingers stroked the home of his unborn child, she recalled the first day he brought her to his home from Britain.

 

“Honey” he said as they boarded a taxi from Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. “Things will be difficult for you.”

 

But she laughed and held him tighter. She had insisted that she wanted to live with him in his homeland.

 

“I am stronger than you think,” she said. “As long as I have you, I can handle everything and anything.” She didn’t know how wrong she was.

 

The minute the car had stopped on the road near his home, she looked outside and was shocked. He said they were poor but this was not poor; it was beyond being poor.

 

His relatives stood next to the road. The women were bald headed wrapped in blue and grey sheets and most carried small babies on their backs. The men had braided hair, carried spears or sticks on one hand and had also wrapped red sheets around their bodies.

 

As she got out of the taxi, she thought she was watching a movie. Her husband was already shaking hands with some of the men and some women had bowed their heads down to him.

 

The noise they made sounded like monkey’s chatter. She felt lost.

 

The sun was blazing hot and the landscape wide. It looked empty except for the few huts, a large cattle shed.  The taxi driver removed their luggage as she stood there looking lost. Palo, her husband was surrounded by his relatives and apart from three children who looked at her with curiosity, she was largely unnoticed.

 

A minute later, Palo had finished the greetings and he now introduced her to his relatives. The women smiled, their faces showing pure dislike for her while the men were excited about her. They held her hands; another touched her hair and compared it to his. They all smell an unfamiliar repealing smell that she later came to discover was the fat from cattle that they applied on their bodies.

 

Palo just stood and looked at her with pride. The walk to the mud-thatched house took nearly half an hour. Every two minutes, the group of young men relatives would start a song led by a young lad with braided hair.

 

His voice was sharp and he sang a high note while the men responded in a low rumble as they answered every sentence he uttered. They would suddenly form a circle and start jumping up and down while singing. It was the most beautiful sight that she had ever seen. Only thing was that she was tired and this didn’t seem the right place for that.

 

The memories of the first day only made her miss him more. She sighed again and wished she could get a cup of coffee.

 

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6 thoughts on “Home away from Home

  1. Glad to have you back, Mo! I really missed you and your writing. So how’s the whole medication going?

    Another enjoyable story. Purely African. I just love the descriptions in the story.

  2. Fantastic story, very descriptive piece, loved it. My favourite bits were the dog (Simba – brilliant) and when the men started singing – drew me in culturally and I really like your use of metaphors throughout the piece – you have great talent.

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