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Home. Mine has always been different. I know, in your head you are thinking, isn’t everyone’s? But all questions asked about home, never apply to mine. If I have told you about my best Christmas, which I have on several occasions, I lied. The Christmas where we were in Marsabit and even Muslims contributed to our church party, is true. The part that is a lie is the ‘best’ part. I don’t have a best Christmas. I chose to stick with that lie because it is the only Christmas I remember before I settled in completely to home.
I met a small girl a while ago in our shop. She has come to live with her mother finally after staying with her grandmother in Nyeri. The other children have a problem communicating with her, because of her accent. But they are always playing with her. And in between the breaks she comes and stands next to me. At times looking at what I’m doing, at times she takes a biro and writes on anything on the desk. Unlike all the other children around, she never asks for my attention and neither does complain for the lack of it. I don’t even know her name.
” You’ll miss your friends in Nyeri..” Silence as she continues dribbling on the book. “What are the names of your friends?” I try another approach to this seven year old. I have no friends, she says. “But surely, in your class, you must have had friends, what were your classmates names?”. There is Miriam, there was one who left, we used to call him Tiger(she smiles) and our class prefect. He usually has a stick which he uses to beat us, he beats me even when I am not a noise maker. ” Who do you seat with?” I try to change her mood which has changed to a sullen one. She is Miriam. “And you are not friends with Miriam?”. She beats me too. Yes we are friends. ” But you had said you did not have any friends”. Umm..we are friends, if I say we are not friends, she will know wherever she is, and she beats me. Poor soul. I found myself yearning that the same way I found a home here in this strange town away from my grandmother, that this little girl will also find her home here in this place.
Our Christmases are usually ranged according to how good business is that season. Speaking of business, the first time I felt as if I belonged here, was when i delivered my first item from our wholesale to a certain shop. I had had my bicycle added that part on the rear wheel that could carry things for that exact purpose. My friends, the ones I had formed when I arrived in this place, were mostly older and so had gone off to high school or campus or boarding school. On the other hand, our business was blooming, we had at least 6 employees. And at least 3 had bicycles. I used to admire the way they could speed off in them. While carrying goods on them still. And so I joined them, I needed company.
Home. This is where I learnt about the power of being mysterious and quiet. The first time I spoke in front of people at home, I had accompanied my father for a class 8 party of a neighboring school. I had also done my class 8 that year. And had passed with flying colours. Five years later, seated in a computer class, with everyone expecting me to sort of know everything, I met five pupils who had been seated at that party, listening to words of advice from their agemate. My reputation, for as long as I knew, has always gone before me here. Most people know me without necessarily knowing my face. Something my small sister has always used to her advantage since she became taller than me, always introducing herself as me.
For me, home is more of a feeling than a place. The streets of this place never change. Neither do the buildings or the businesses. And in all that, neither is how I feel. This place always makes me feel like a piece of it. I understand its rhythm. Its heart beats come naturally to me. And at the same time, I have never belonged here. Despite understanding the mind of this place, I have never  been a part of it. That’s why I never bother to explain to anyone about home. They wouldn’t understand. Or maybe I wouldn’t find the words to. Am even struggling to tell this story of this place I call home. How do you explain how I have had a countdown to when I’ll officially exit this place from the time I joined University and at the same time,I usually rush home given any single opportunity? How do you put it words, that by 6 come rain come sun, our household is always up and running? Who will understand how we just never watch movies or lazy around doing nothing during the holidays? That for us, it means getting dirty. Dirty and tired at the shop. Lifting, weighing, arranging, wiping, counting, taking stock,ask me about any of that, and I will answer truthfully. Because that is where our school fees comes from, as my mum religiously reminds us. My father is always insisting on showing me every aspect of the business, so that should anything happen, I’ll be able to carry their work forward. Big dreams he has there.
In this place, is where I also learnt that everyone has two sides. Or at least, don’t judge a book by its cover. An old man came looking for my dad today, which is very usual- people looking for my parents that is, he wanted to know if he had stamped the forms he had left for him. He had tried calling him, but he seemed to be in a meeting or somewhere busy. And in his own words ” najua ukiona hashiki simu, ako very busy, haezi kosa kuchukua simu ya mtu”( if he is not picking my calls, he must be very busy, I know he can’t refuse to pick any call). That is the amount of faith people here put in my dad. And at times, walking around as his daughter I feel proud to be associated with a man people trust. At the same time, I remember that when he was busy building that image, by paying school fees for underprivileged people, taking pregnant women to hospital at weird hours of the night, buying people Christmas gifts, on Christmas day, our family would be stranded outside the church not knowing where or how we will celebrate as he leaves us to go and attend the many Christmas parties he has been invited to, by virtue of who he has established himself to be.
In this place is where all my ‘first things’ also happened. First kiss, first betrayal, first real job, first heart break and the list goes on. Things that randomly occur to me once in a while when triggered by something. I also read my first ever most interesting book here. And it was by Hardly Chase. It was here too that I learnt that people will forgive but not forget.
In this place, I saw the ‘superiority’ of women. Women run this town. Men just appear to. There are only 2-5 formal organizations here. Whose members of staff are negligible. In simple terms, this town is run by informal businesses. Everyone here, is either running a business, that includes wholesales, hotels, bars,salons and barber shops, Mpesa agents,boutiques or movie shops, or facilitating the running of businesses, that includes, landlords, employees in all those places, pastors, prostitutes, KCB(the only bank here to date from when I moved in here almost a decade and a half ago) among others. Its either your parents run a business or facilitate a business. And in most cases, the haves belong to the former class while the haves not to the latter class. And crossing that line in between is usually easier than in any other part of this country I’ve been to.
Friends? It depends. In this place, you can never be so sure of your friends. I remember growing up with my family being in good terms with their fellow business people. Until bad luck struck, and getting any of those millionaires to give you ten thousand required us to guarantee it with all our kidneys and lungs. Good luck struck, and suddenly the same character is okay with you staying with his quarter a million for as long as you like with no guarantee. There is a saying here that says ” Money changes hands among those who have money “. My opinion, that is very true.
This Christmas has been good. According to the standards of this town. I hope new year will be too. Not that there will be a difference to the amount of my pocket money anyway. But ultimately, I’m home. I don’t know how it will feel like to one day not be doing business around this season. To one day be able to have a ‘best’ Christmas. But for all I care, I am right where my heart is. And for that alone, this is a good Christmas.
Have a merry Christmas now, won’t you?

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