The festivities have come and gone. And January is here to stay. At least for some weeks. I am not going to discuss this though; there has been enough discussion about the month to cause a depression greater than the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is week one of the year after you are back from globetrotting and binge eating and drinking. As a result your waistline has taken a trip to Christmas Island and you are not sure when it is coming back, or whether it has a plan of ever coming back. Your body’s skin has an enviable(only by cars) tint, and the tan on your face and neck makes you look like a butterfly. You sit in the shower for two hours trying to scrub off the tint; and under your breath you mutter curses to the magic wands that are sunscreen, hats and sunglasses for giving you a raw deal. But you cant blame them much; all you were doing was putting your legs up in the air and eating like the final trumpet was about to be blown. Your appearance had been the least of your concerns, and by the end of the two-hour bathroom session that solves nothing, you, the water and the soap. The three of you agree on only one thing; what a shame it would be if there was a New Years Most Tinted Skin competition because undoubtedly you would be the winner.
The scum on your skin is not the only problem you have. It’s new year and you have resolutions, but no motivation. You are trying to find something to influence your work ethic. And then you remember them, and then you smile. Sheepishly and stupidly.
“Sweets, tropical, maji, juice” is their mantra. The street hawkers of Christmas and new year season. But you are mistaken because they are not seasonal. They are there every other day despite being evicted from bus stops by the City Council. You often see them come sell merchandise they don’t have in their hands, and then like genies, they fish it out;whatever you wanted from the pocket of their jackets. In the small towns though, the county askaris don’t bother with them and you will find them milling about their business with all manners of antics.
They will make you smile, even on a gloomy day. Who wouldn’t when they hear a call out, not the recorded ones you hear in shoe shops in Nairobi midtown, “Mundu wariganiiruo dawa ya kunina thuraku, mbia na mucene….(which is Kikuyu and loosely translates into “someone who forgot to buy medicine to eradicate ants, rats and gossip…) Isn’t this akin to witchcraft?
Barely will you have caught your breath when another one looks at you with feigned surprise, “Na we wahana mbari citu(And you look like people from my clan), like my aunt from Kinangop”. All this time he is making a fake scrutiny of your face, so that you buy. You buy eventually, or you don’t, but you are left doing the maths of how you can be an aunt to a forty year old man, and also calculating; Kinangop?
And there are those that will reach deep and tap into your emotions so that you can buy. “Sister, hii kazi yangu yenye nafanyanga. Ni hii tu. Sina ingine.” At this time he will look into your eyes , with eyes filled with pity. And your mind will convince that you don’t even have a concrete plan for that fifty shilling note lying in your pouch.
And you will be surprised to learn that in fact some of them went through school. In perfect unflawed English that would have Mwalimu Andrew blushing and Matiang’i challenged, they will approach you respectfully like gentlemen, “Good afternoon miss. Buy something today. It won’t hurt. Your husband is surely going to love this…” Perfect English! In other news, who told him you have a husband, or is he making a prophecy?
And then enters the blunt and outright Kikuyu woman who is only after money and not diplomacy or pleasantries. “Machungwa ni 50 customer.” She recognizes your place and doesn’t try to please your by calling you her long-lost great grandmother or unborn cousin.
There is this other one who will crack you up by telling you to surprise your family with a pack of oranges. “Surprise them! Surprise them!” How are oranges supposed to be surprises, unless they have golden seeds inside them. Deep in your heart you agonize over the fact that the only thing that would surprise your family back home is if you brought over a potential spouse. You have been painfully counting days until you go upcountry to be asked this question for the millionth time. And in your head you tell this oranges guy, “If you are Jesus, turn these oranges into a fiancee.”
Happy New Year. Purpose to buy from a street hawker in 2017 what you can comfortably get from the mall or convenience store. You won’t die, I promise.