Disposable

Disposability.

The first time I learnt that I was disposable to my mother, was on my 11th Christmas on earth. We had closed school a little later than other boarding schools, and as such we couldn’t wait to catch up with play and relaxation after a whole year of school.

I couldn’t really say the same for me. I didn’t have constant friends at home, seeing that I had moved in with my parents three years before. But I had a sister who adored me and a bicycle that was closer than a companion. And parents. And for the first time, my father would be present for a holiday.

I was just like other kids. I didn’t think much of the future. Just what happens today.

Until I went home, and instead of spending the holiday with my family, I was sent to our shopping center in shags, where my parents had a shop. At first I didn’t mind, coz after all, my parents would surely come for me for Christmas, right?

Wrong. I stayed and stayed. And for the first time listened to Christmas carols on the radio we had for entertainment. People seemed happy about that Christmas. Not overjoyed. Just happy. It used to rain in shags. The kind of rain that doesn’t leave puddles but smells so damn nice. White flowers popped all over. The ground wasn’t slippery, it was just wet, making me enjoy my errands.

I had rarely gone to that church in shags. Till my mum called the auntie I was staying with to command us to not miss church. Specifically her husband’s church. My mother was a Catholic before getting married. That aunt went to some funny church whose initials are ABC, while my father goes to AIC. So it was decided that we go to AIC. And we went.

It was a dreary holiday for me. I kept on hoping my mother would call, but each time she did, it was to quarrel us about something. I missed my little sister.

The last call that broke the straw, was a few days to Christmas. She specifically wanted to talk to me. And went on to tirade me on why I wasn’t concerned about the shop’s finances. That she didn’t send me there to go sit around or relax, she had sent me there to work and keep her updated on how their shop was doing. Clearly I had missed the job description.

It was then that I realised that my mum wasn’t coming for me. They weren’t. I had been disposed off.

And for that Christmas, we opened shop as usual. Happy families reunited by the season came to drink sodas after church. Children that hadn’t seen their mothers in a while couldn’t hide their excitement as they did shopping for their mothers. After all, regardless of how old you grow, you’ll still be your mothers child.

And after one long day of working, that aunt of mine, who I only called aunt out of courtesy since she wasn’t technically my aunt, my uncle, that is one of my mothers smaller brother and myself, sat outside the shop. And drank sodas.

I curled myself up in a ball, and observed the nightlight. The stars were many and twinkling. I loved the stars as a kid. Could stay for hours observing them. But this specific night, the moon stole the show. It was huge! So huge that I could make off patterns of it.

And that was the first time, the moon became my companion. Seated there with people I wasn’t close to, on a Christmas day when my family had disposed of me, I found solace with this lonely bright thing up there. Alone among millions of stars. I could relate with it. I talked with it. I formed a bond with it. At that point, we were one.

And over and over again, I’ve been familiar with being disposable in people’s lives. To the extent that I started disposing off myself in any situation where there was an extra person. I noticed that if a game in school required 10 people, and 11 of us had offered ourselves, I would automatically remove myself, doesn’t matter if I had been leading the game.

I think when the people you naturally belong to, treat you as if you don’t, it may take a lifetime to ever feel as if you rightfully do belong anywhere or anyone.

In between that Christmas and now, I’ve had many more instances of being left out or simply being pushed out, but what alarms me more, is how I dispose off people easily. With no twinge of regret or guilt or any feelings whatsoever. And now I usually feel bad for being that good at it. Trying to guilt trip myself into holding on to those whose spaces have outlived their usefulness in my life.

And as I enter into the serious phase of adulting, I am reminded that I am not disposable. Neither was I meant to be in the first place.

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Lake Chala

To share this story, is to give you a glimpse of Kenya’s most cleanest and pristine lake, and I’m not so sure it’ll still remain the same if we all flock there to go see it. But seeing how Mzima Springs has maintained its pristine-ness despite thousands of visitors, maybe this isn’t so true.

Lake Chala, is a crater lake. Don’t know for which mountains or hills exactly. It straddles the Kenya and Tanzania boarder, with a little more hotels and resorts on Tanzania’s side and the only one on the Kenyan side was closed recently.

We left our trucks a few minutes to the rim, and walked the rest of the way. But it seemed more of hiking than walking seeing that one walks uphill. And from the outside, one can’t see a glimpse of the lake. At all at all. If no one told you there is a lake around there somewhere, you wouldn’t even have an inkling, that buried up there is the bluest water you’ll ever see on land.

The hike takes about thirty minutes. To the bottom of the lake that is. And once we got to the top, and the lake came to view, we all went silent for a moment. In front of us, was a lake larger that we expected, deep blue in color, with waves playing on the top of the water. No one was in site. Like absolutely no human beings, and no boat or anything to show their presence. It looked like it must have looked like this a thousand years ago. Pristine doesn’t quite do justice to what we were seeing. Virgin is more like it. Untouched. Totally unbothered by anything. Not even weather Elements.

After our initial shock, we went into a taking pictures spree. I had always thought that those pictures taken of lake Chala from previous editions of this trip, used filters to make this lake appear that blue. I had never seen such a lake, so I assumed it never existed and as such, they filter the hell out of it to make it more attractive. I was wrong. There is absolutely nothing, one can add to make this lake any more beautiful. Nothing. Nature decided to show off here. And left nothing to chance.

So we go down, since we intended to swim. But people are now a bit scared. We had all been expecting a small calm quiet lake with a beach where we could swim and lazy around. Not a fully fledged lake on top of mountains with strong waves.

But all the same, we found a spot and started swimming. After a meter or two the water gets really deep, so for once, even extremely good swimmers, had to stay at the ‘shallow’ end. I put it in quotes coz my head was barely being seen when standing at that shallow end. And for those who went underwater for a bit, we could see very clearly the floor of the lake, and besides the shallow end made of stones and some black tiny rocks, the rest of the floor of the lake is made of white sand. Yaani, you see those images Nat Geo shows you of the ocean, where you can clearly see fish moving . Except that this time you don’t need underwater lighting equipment to see all that, just courage to swim and open eyes.

For all of us, even those who didn’t swim, this was the absolute highlight of the trip. Kenya’s best kept secret.

We all didn’t want to leave. But all good things come to an end. I don’t know if any of us shall ever make the long trip back to Lake Chala, but whether or not we see it again, we shall never forget that experience of being in front of nature’s masterpiece.

Lake Jipe

I knew something like Lake Jipe existed. Its one of those things you know but you don’t know how you got to know of them. Or even where it was. Lake Chala I don’t remember having heard of it.

But sometime last year I saw Safirinasi, a travel agency I trust and love, had taken people to a trip to Tsavo West, Lake Jipe and Lake Chala. It seemed like a very unconventional trip. I had never heard of such a combination, let alone people being taken to see some not so common lakes. And being the ardent traveller I am, that trip definitely made it to my 2019 bucket list..and when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it. Some things are so rare that there is no time to think twice of experiencing them.

Having talked of Tsavo West, through the Mtito Andei gate in my previous post, I’ll delve right into Lake Jipe and Lake Chala. The reason why gates are important when talking of Tsavo, is because Tsavo National Park, East and West, is larger than some countries such as Israel and Rwanda. Yap! And it has tens of entrances depending on which side you are coming from. Obviously for something larger than some countries, two people in different sides of the park, might have two totally different experiences, and even their pictures might depict very different sceneries. And of course, unless one plans to spend several days exploring Tsavo, its impossible to see the whole of it on the ground with a day or two.

So on Saturday we woke up early so as to try and get to Lake Jipe early. We had camped in Tsavo West using the Mtito Andei route, and where we wanted to go was Taveta, on the other side of the country. So we got out of the park first, drove to Voi town, and took that route that leads to Holili, or Tanzania if you like.

Turns out that this was to be a long ride, seeing that Lake Jipe is halfway in Kenya, halfway in Tanzania. Something that puzzled most of us. None of us could get how they know where exactly the boundary is in the middle of the lake.

Anyway, to get to Lake Jipe, managed by KWS on the Kenyan side, we had to get to Tsavo West again, using the Maktau gate. I could see the shock on people’s faces, as they tried to comprehend how one can drive for over five hours, and still be in not just the same park, but the same side of the park, West.

And for me, experiencing Tsavo West from the Maktau side, felt like being in a new park entirely. For one, its green. Like thoroughly green. The semi arid kind of green. It looked so damn undisturbed. Like animals here are left alone most of the time. Even by predators. Everywhere we looked were this not so tall trees, covered with a green canopy and really short grass covering the earth. I had never seen such expansive savanna woodland and grassland.

And the highlight of that drive was seeing two cheetahs. lounging somewhere beneath a tree. One sleeping down, and another looking at us. We had almost missed them, because of how much they had camouflaged with the bark of the tree they were under. They looked like big peaceful cats. And didn’t have as many spots as one would expect.

So barely after sighting those cheetahs did Lake Jipe come to view. Lake Jipe is formed at the bottom of the mountains/hills on Tanzania’s side. On the Kenyan side its arid and semi arid, and flat all the way to the lake. While Tanzania’s side is full of hills, complete with human settlement.

The lake itself isn’t so huge, I think people usually cross in an hour or so. And has some hippos and crocodiles. Especially on the Kenyan side where, due to it being a protected area, people rarely fish or overuse the water for their own purposes. And due to this, we were told that the fish and other animals in the lake, adjusted and started using the Kenyan side of the lake as breeding ground, since they won’t be disturbed or harvested unlike on Tanzania’s side.

We went for a boat ride, albeit a short one, and our boat guide was explaining to us, that the communities around don’t care much for borders or who is in which country, because ni Shemeji zao. That means they have intermarried, and as such, quarreling would be like quarreling with your in-laws. Especially Kenyan men who’ve gotten wives from there. So as far as they are concerned, they live peacefully with each other and sometimes even vote on both sides. As for him, a Taveta man, he voted for Magufuli.

It was interesting seeing a turtle swim. As usual, we were perplexed as to how it got here considering we all assumed they are only found in the ocean, not in a lake. The lake’s color is green and there are a lot of reeds on the Kenyan side, that we noticed people on the Kenyan side use to thatch their houses.

Speaking of people, when we were coming to lake Jipe, we were inside a park. But we used a different route to get out. And now we could see villages or at least houses of people along the way. Their houses were mostly made of mud, and thatched with dried reeds. As expected of Kenyans, we saw a motorbike or two parked outside. And then hundreds of goats and sheeps. I don’t remember seeing any farms on this specific side. Seems like pastoralism does well here.

My busmates were commenting on how some houses looked they were about to cave in, but had a solar system on the roof. Making us wonder that probably that was the work of some NGOs. But unlike when I was young, when I used to naturally assume that living in mud houses meant one was automatically poor, this time I refrained from making such judgments.

I once heard a story of how some Europeans, back in the day before they occupied America, went for trip to those unknown lands. When they landed on the shore, they got to interact a bit with the people they found inland, and concluded that native Americans must be very poor and are starving, seeing that they were eating insects, especially the kids who would ran after small insects, cut off the legs and wings and eat the insects happily. Those Europeans wrote their observations about this poor starving people in their notebooks and went back home to report the same.

So the next expedition to the same place, got a ship fully loaded with food, to go feed those hungry native Americans. However the people on this second ride,weren’t told how the others concluded that those people needed relief food. So they were shocked, to get there and find obese kids and men, walking around with their bodies not only well fed but also fat. Turns out, that eating of insects isn’t due to poverty, but a choice of delicacy.

So anyway, I’m not saying my fellow travelers were not justified to classify this place as underdeveloped, but the kids and adults seemed well fed. Especially the kids.

So we left Lake Jipe and its people to go camp elsewhere, closer to our next destination, Lake Chala.

Mzima springs

Out of the ordinary things impress me. They excite me actually. A little more than they do the average person. Which is why I’m always looking for the next sunset. The next lake. The next forest. The next good view. The next hill.

And this time, my search found me in my most loved national park in the country. Tsavo National Park. The West specifically. I’ve been here countless times. Yet each time, especially in my adulthood, I see things anew.

We entered the Mtito Andei gate at around 3.00pm. And the place looked like it had really gotten the beating of the year from the current drought. Everything spoke of dryness. From the nonexistent grass to the thoroughly dried up trees.

For the first-time visitors we had, they were quite disappointed, considering we almost drove for an hour without seeing wild animals. For them, especially those who had been to Maasai Mara, they couldn’t fathom what’s the fuss people make about Tsavo if they can’t spot animals.

I wanted to tell them about the Tsavo I know. The park that as a kid, fascinated me to no end. How back in the day, we used to start seeing herds of antelopes at the gate. Followed by quails, almost a decade before Kenyans heard of their eggs. How elephants dominated those plains in their hundreds. How warthogs were found on the road. And the naughty monkeys of Mzima springs.

But things come to an end. Even for the largest park in Kenya and maybe Africa. And maybe the world. But is this the end for this world famous park? Well, only the rainy season will tell .

As I was saying, one can go to a place for a hundred times, and have a hundred different perspectives of that same place.

Tsavo does that to me each time. Its that old friend who you always know afresh each time. Tsavo chronicles my life so beautifully. How wide eyed I was as a kid. And how that greatly influenced what I saw.

The last two times I’ve been to Tsavo West, one thing I can’t get over is hills. I don’t know what’s my craze with them, but I just couldn’t help but ogle at them. Maybe its the way they stand tall. Undefeated. Almost taunting me to try them out. If only I could hike among lions. Or maybe its the way they look untouched. No human contact, like there are no paths at all in all those hundreds of hills in Tsavo. And maybe I admire that. That purity from humans. That being as you were, as you are supposed to be. Some of us are trying to get home, to who we are without human interference, with little success.

Those hills, unlike the flat areas are green. And I just couldn’t get over them. For the first time I have gone into a park and I have more pictures of hills rather than animals.

But what stole the show this time, was Mzima Springs. Some places are totally underated in Kenya.

Its arguably the purest water around. Apparently, the water flows from Kilimanjaro through underground rivers ( one can see Mt Kilimanjaro from Tsavo West) , bubbles up in Mzima Springs – you can actually see where it spurts out from the ground, it flows for a few meters, before forming a small ‘lake’, inhabited by hippos, fish and crocodiles before flowing for a kilometer or two, then sinking back to the underground to do the rest hundreds of kilometers to coast, where its a major supplier of their fresh water.

What tugged at my heart was how unworldly it looked like. So damn pristine. Yaani it makes the environment around it change for a moment. You feel as if you are in a rainforest, or a tropical forest all mixed in one. I’ll let the pictures do it justice.

When I was young, the only thing that fascinated me in Mzima Springs was this hut in the middle of that kalake. It has glasses through which one can observe fish moving underwater and how huge hippos are underwater. It felt like watching Nat Geo live, watching fish swim so near the surface of the water and play around. One gets this idea that they are getting a 3D experience of nature.

And now, what calmed at my heart, was how pristine that place looked like. Its impossible to stare at such beauty, and your heart be worried about anything. For a moment, one is placed in front of something bigger than themselves, and not literally. You feel weird realizing that in the middle of the mess that we are, heavenly beautiful places exists. And they don’t just exist, they thrive. For a moment, one sees nature at its finest. I got this feeling that on this one, nature was showing off. How else would you explain that pure green magic in the middle of dryness all over it?

I don’t know what will take my breath away next time I’m there, but for this one, Mzima Springs brought me home.

But you know what, I want it.

There is this spring inside of me. In my heart specifically. At the bottom or base. It feels really light. And its emitting happiness.

And you know what’s amazing about this whole thing? That if there is one thing I wanted for 2019, besides the many that I did, was a deep seated kind of happiness.

I had never experienced happiness as a lifestyle before. In my life happiness was that thing that came once in a while. Or I had moments of it. Never something that was internal.

And if there is one thing that I’m getting amazed at how much it works, is clarifying what I want. It has reached a point I take all opportunities of clarifying my thoughts and wants. Someone asks what a meaningful life means for me? I’m taking a moment and thinking about it. Another asks what a comfortable life looks like for me? I sit back, take a pen and write it out. I notice myself admiring a certain relationship, I’ll pause and think through what attracted me to it and what that means for what I would want in future relationships.

I never cease to get amazed when something I wanted comes to pass. And they never come just like that, they come full brim, flowing over. To say that when I said I wanted a deep seated happiness for 2019 that this is what I meant, it would be an overstatement. I knew what I wanted. I just didn’t expect it would come in this fulfilling sort of way.

In my previous life( ahem, sometimes who I was before 2018 seems so alien that I feel as if its a totally separate life that I lived then). Anyway, as I was saying, who I was then, would have never conceptualized being happy under stressful circumstances. Like that would have been so alien to them.

Yet here I am. In the middle of the most intense period of my year, basking in happiness. Aki I’m so happy I wish I had words to describe this feeling in my chest. Its so literal that I suspect that if a person put their hand on my chest, they would feel it. And why am I happy? Just because. Like I’m just happy.

If there is one lesson I’ve learnt this year, it is to not be afraid to want. Its one that I’m still learning. Sometimes the things I want are kinda against what I’ve been taught as normal. They seem weird. Or just outright outrageous.

But I realise that the only reason they are outrageous, is because I don’t have them yet, or can’t afford them, or i’m not in an environment that breeds them. As a close friend told me yesterday, our core values change with time. And as she spoke it occurred to me, that the reason they do, is because we only want what we don’t have right now. And once we have them, we move on to the next thing that we don’t have.

And for the longest time I was stuck in wanting ‘realistic’ things. In being safe with my wants. The only thing I’ve ever gone all the way out in wanting is Travel and books. With the rest of my life, I was complacent. Half the time I didn’t think about it, and the other half I expected it to sort itself out. I mean, we just live, right?

Well, I just lived. The rest of my life was just that. Nothing to write home about. Yes, I had my good moments. But it was just the usual.

Until I started wanting more. And now i’m getting way more than I bargained for. At some point, I was worried that I wouldn’t get the books I wanted to read this year. Like really worried. Like the depressing kind of stress.

And now, i’m ‘worried’ because I have so many books to read, and I haven’t read for the last week and this one. Like its one of those things I can’t wait to finish my exams and do. I read as if i’m being paid to do so. My devotion to it is unwavering. Hadi some stranger was asking me whether there is a deeper reason as to why I read besides the usual ‘I love reading’. From what he had observed, if I told him I’m employed to read, dude would have believed me🤣 .

And I’m happy that one of the things I really wanted, is coming to pass so beautifully. Way more awesomely than I would have foreseen in February when I was worried about it.

But sometimes with wanting, comes the fear of not having. And I’ve had to deal with that way too often recently. Especially when whatever i want involves humans. And now add the trauma I went through as a kid with human beings and affection. Some things from my childhood I’ve gotten over, and others I’ve had to reconcile it with myself that that I may never fully get over them and instead I’ll have to adapt to living with them. But in a healthy way. Like recognising when something is a trigger and reminding myself what’s the truth.

And that’s a little difficult to get used to. You see, before I was rarely exposed to these situations that demanded a higher self. When you never want, you never experience the joy of having, the disappointment of not having, or the journey towards either. So it never occurred to me, that there are areas of my life that need fine tuning. And the only way i’ll know what areas to adjust or improve is by my heart going through new terrain.

Its been a learning curve. That someone’s actions or words or the lack of them, has no reflection on me as a person. That it doesn’t take away my awesomeness or my being. The same way my thoughts about you don’t lessen who you are. I am yet to grasp this one. But i’m on the way there.

And that’s okay too. Taking time. I’ve learnt to treat myself with kindness. The other day, when I was at my wits end as to what to do with myself, it occurred to me, that during that whole time, I had treated myself the best way anyone could have treated me at that point. Like I had been the best friend I could have asked for at that moment for myself. And I realised that when I was at the other end of the spectrum, when I thought I was not doing enough for myself.

So I live. I go through the most weird times of my life, with happiness as a companion. And all that because I sat one morning after a period of introspection and decided, I may not know what this happiness business is about, what it entails, how it comes to be, but you know what, I want it.

Learning.

I had convinced myself that my life will get way better after my exams. I had put on hold doing anything I enjoy doing till I finish my exams. Till I’m done with those small devils. In simple terms, my happiness would be on hold, till I finished my exams. Then I would be happy. Then I would be free.

Then I’ve started reading some law cases, as part of my revision, and my heart has instantly been reminded of why we choose this course in the first place. I have been transfixed on cases after cases. I have wished I did this for a living. I have wished if only all my exams required me to read environmental cases. I have been excited reading judgments and how the defendants and appellants take jibes at each other using the law. There is one where a government agency tries to get out of compensating a company whose crops have been destroyed by wildlife migration by claiming that wildlife migration is an act of God. Like really? Like of all arguments those government lawyers could come up with, they saw it fit to claim an act of God as their defense😂😂?

I am having so much fun, that it has occurred to me, that my life is now. I know its cliche, but I may not live to see the end of my exams. Would I have wasted the next 11 days waiting for them to pass?

Sometimes that’s what I do with life. Say that I’ll enjoy it more when a certain activity or phase is gone. Not realising that life is now. Even then, when whatever I was waiting for comes to pass, my life shall still be then. The now of that time. Not the future.

So I enjoy reading for these exams I was dreading. And as usual, hopefully enjoy the rush that comes with actually doing them. Its so weird how I’ve moved from dreading them to feeling nostalgic that these might be the last ones I do in a while. If only I could enroll for something else that’s fun immediately.

I immensely enjoy learning. Immensely. And for a moment, I had forgotten that.

With herself.

I would go to Uganda. They say a fifth of Uganda is covered in water. I would look for some of the unpopular water. A river or a lake. With a nice old balcony overlooking the water. Better yet if its surrounded by the water as some places are there.

A place with no human contact. Or minimal human contact. And a boat that can be summoned at my will.

And that’s what I would do. Stare at the water, read a book with tea, black mint tea preferably, as my partner in crime. And then stare at the water some more. Take pictures and some more of the same place but different angles. Trying to be the photographer I think I’ll one day be.

And then I would forget. About everything and everyone. I would forget about my semester, about the start of 2019, and how intense it has been.

I would forget about anyone who matters. Really forget about them. And concentrate on myself. Deep in Africa alone. And for that moment in time, only I will matter.

Then I’ll forget about my life. Especially this phase of becoming. Especially these times when I don’t even know where my life is at. I’ll forget about my dreams. The unlikely ones, the ambitious ones, the possible ones, the ones I’m working towards.

I’ll forget about who i’m supposed to be. But before that, I’ll forget who I am. Not that I have an idea anyway. I’ll forget my attempts at getting the things I want, and how successful they’ve been so far.

I’ll forget about my fear. My greatest fear is not succeeding at what I think I should succeed at. About this deep seated fear of getting a C instead of an A in my upcoming exams, and how it doesn’t make a difference anyway.

I’ll forget about my worry of what next after the next 11 days. What do we do with ourselves then?

I’ll forget about tinder. And its myriad of surprises in the middle of its inactivity. I’ll forget about Facebook, and the kind of identity I’m getting there.

I’ll forget about being Kenyan. This is an abusive relationship I’m willing to trade for another. I’ll forget about how we laugh at out trauma and collective suffering.

And for that moment, I’ll be a bird. Or a chimpanzee. Or anything really. I’ll just be. No stress from yesteryears. And no worries or anxieties about the future.

For that moment seated in that boat, I’ll smile. Because of nothing. Because of having escaped it all, even if its for that one second.

For that moment, I’ll let my mind rest. And sleep. Our worry will be that we aren’t worried about anything.

I hope its cold. The kind that will make me drink lots of tea. And I hope I’ll be able to watch films from Mali. Their brazenness. Their audacity. Their sarcasm. Their pride. And their mad story telling skills.

For that moment, I’ll just be. No one. Someone. Anyone. In the middle of somewhere. With herself. Because right now, I don’t feel as if I have myself.