Thinking back to every time I’ve started writing this story, it’s remained incomplete every single time. This time, while it may remain incomplete, if you’re reading this, it’s up. That in itself is a huge accomplishment, telling this has never been easy.
First I’ll direct you to @Warothe’s series on his blog Lost in America. In case you haven’t read it, it’s a peek into the life of Kenyans who have disappeared in America. An account of what they go through and the secrets they keep from their families while trying to remain there.
We all know someone who is there, the difficult 90’s made many Kenyans escape. It wasn’t just America but Dubai, South Africa, Canada, the UK and Europe. Out of these, the predominant stories were only about those who made it good. There was and still is very little evidence of the other side of the coin, which means, many are still trying to go. Not as many as before but a sizeable number are desperately trying to leave Kenya. Back then it used to be mainly the middle class and the poor who had connections and family. Now more of the poor want to go. The job adverts for guards in Afghanistan, cooks in Dubai and nurses in some country or the other pull them by the thousands.
Then there’s the story of the others, those who are left behind. Back then as now those who left were brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They left behind siblings, parents, spouses and children. Provision came at all costs and especially to ensure the future of the young ones, that they would get all they needed to be successful in life.
Who said it was money that made a child? Who said it was getting fancy clothes, going to expensive schools that made a child more likely to be a millionaire, or a successful career person? Who lied to you that if you got that formula right, everything else would fall into place?
This story is close to my heart but belongs to many others, I share this with permission, I share it because I see people making the same choices without understanding where the road leads.
She was nine years old; she couldn’t understand what was happening. Her mother was leaving, there were people in the house but they seemed to ignore her. They sung and prayed and there was lots of food. She had a tight feeling in her chest, she wanted to cry but she didn’t know why. It hurt, her chest, then she had this bad feeling that Mummy was going and never coming back.
After they prayed there were sounds, Mummy called her to their room. The room they had been living in since they moved back to her grandparent’s house. The things from their old house were everywhere but this room was the most familiar setting with the same furniture they had had in their old apartment bedroom.
“Sit on the bed” Mummy instructed her. She sat on the small bed that was usually used for storing laundry except when there were visitors. She moves to the end of the bed, the wire mesh that holds the mattress sinks and makes for uncomfortable sitting.
“Mama I love you,” Mummy hesitates and her eyes become teary, “I need to go to America so I can take care of you, but you will come as soon as I settle down. That’s why we got that passport. Okay sweetie?”
Mummy hugs her tightly.
“Why can’t I go with you now?, Why are you leaving me? Don’t leave me Mummy, Don’t go..”
Her sentence is swallowed in plaintive cries that steadily become wails. Someone comes in to the room and says it’s time to go.
She doesn’t want her Mummy to go, what if she never comes back, who will take care of her, who will read he bedtime stories, who will take her to the dentist and doctor, who will soothe her at night when she has nightmares?
Her cries became screams as they walked to the car tightly holding on to Mummy’s jacket. The other people were talking calmly; she couldn’t understand why they weren’t listening to her. Why weren’t they helping? It was dark outside; there were no lights where the car was parked, except for the indoor car light. Someone, was it Uncle T was in the driving seat. Someone grabbed her and pulled her away from Mummy as she screamed.
Who will tell this little girl that she will grow up without ever seeing her mother? It’s been 18 years and counting…