Writing 101 Challenge #6: Nkogo

I work in a remote part of Kenya, in a public primary school in a small village called Oloirien, Kajiado County. It’s about 55 kilometers south of the capital Nairobi and in the heart of Maasai land. If you don’t have a clue as to who the Maasai are, I can’t help you from under that rock. They are world-renowned. I have to say I was quite excited to finally get out of Nairobi and dive into a world unknown early last year. And it hasn’t been one bit disappointing. Well except that I sometimes have to walk for more than an hour as the school is about 10 kilometers from the nearest road.

I love my job! I get to teach computer skills to young kids who would have otherwise not had the opportunity. In fact our main goal as an organization is to teach the kids programming which we already began this year. You can find more about the organization here.

Another thing I love is how teachers are highly regarded in this part of the world. And even though I am not one by profession, it feels awesome when someone recognizes your work and last week was one such time.

She kind of came out of nowhere really. For an old lady she really moves fast.

“Kijana!” she shouted.

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It means a young person in Swahili. I turned to see who would dare call me kijana. I mean, they can see my beard can’t they? I had to quickly soften my stance because I realized she was a ‘Nkogo’ (Will have to verify the spelling) or grandmother in Maasai. I turned and she was staring at me. She removed a stick (read toothbrush) from her mouth readying for a conversation. She had a mobile phone in her right hand. Her left hand was behind her back for support.

“Haina uhai!” she shouted, indicating the phone. “Weka uhai”.

If you directly translate, she basically said that her phone has no life and that I should give it life. What she meant was that her phone needed to be charged. I should have Lol’d right there and then. But she had this gigantic smile. I felt as if it would be a privilege to help her out. As I reached out to take the phone, she grabbed my hand, shook it and repeated to put life into it. Then she was off. Of course by this time, I had one of those gigantic smiles myself. There was something warm about her. And just as she appeared out of nowhere, she disappeared just the same into the nearby bushes.

She came back about an hour later. This time I saw her coming. From a distance I could see her beaded jewelery, the iconic red and white stripped ‘shukas’ and rubber sandals. Unsurprisingly, she was still wearing her smile. She didn’t have a single strand of hair on her head. And if it had, you could tell they would be white as cotton.

“Iko sawa?” (is it ok?), she asked. I didn’t answer. She was still some distance away.

She came closer and went straight for my arm. You could tell from the grip that she had toiled all her life. They were hard as rock. The visible veins on her hands gave her away too. I started to explain that I hadn’t done what she asked, the smile disappeared. Now she looked much older. She told me that she knew why. There was a problem with her battery and it needed to be set in a particular way for it to charge.

Then her smile returned.

“Asante kijana! Mungu akubariki. Kazi nzuri mnafanya. Hata kwa mtoto wangu Naserian. Taleta simu kesho!” (Thank you. God bless you. You are doing a good job. Even for my child Naserian. I will bring the phone tomorrow.) She said while shaking my hand. Then she went on her way.

This lady made my day.

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