New Friend

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


In a remote, small village a new friend happened along.


High up on the slopes surrounding Mt. Meru, we began work on restoring an old water scheme that was abandoned when the expat settlers were required to move out. The rehabilitation work was instigated by Michael, the sub-village chairman, who was also the chairman of a Pentecostal church group wanting a tree nursery. This is typically how I became involved with projects. While doing one, another need cropped up and if it fitted the criteria, and if I could source funds, then we moved ahead with it.

The landscape was dry and dusty, so hot that if you spat, it would evaporate before hitting the ground! The area was treeless and glaringly brown at eleven in the morning. We were there to meet Michael and a few other men, with us we had our fundi, Kiimboi. A fundi is any craftsman, in this case he was a plumber. It was a rarity for vehicles to venture way up there, so on our approach, kids raced to witness the event. There is nothing in the village as smooth as a Toyota mudguard so the kids liked to run their hands over it, experiencing the smoothness.

As we began to discuss the project ahead of us, the kids drifted off to dodge the heat, except on little girl. I was concentrating on the discussion, and formulating a plan, while subconsciously I was aware the little girl wanted to be picked up. Just arms in the air and that sound without actually speaking. So without thinking I picked her up and carried her around as we looked at elements of the project. We needed to travel up the hill a bit so I plonked the little girl, Matindi on the front passenger seat and she stood laughing and chuckling all the way! It was the first time she had been in a vehicle. I had a new friend.

I suppose my mother would have called Matindi and her peers, ‘little urchins’. Kids wore hand-me-down, ripped and dirty clothes without a care in the world, because no garment could be kept clean in the rigors of the climate there. The kids might have been little scamps, but from what I saw, were always well-behaved. They liked to chat. The dust dries and cracks the skin so Vaseline or other oils are rubbed on for protection (and cosmetics), but not so much for the kids. But whenever Matindi heard my vehicle, she would rush to pack on oil, over the top of the dust! Presumably she through the fragrance of the oil made her more appealing. She became a bit of a celebrity in the village because of her antics. Of course each time I went there, she wanted to be carried and always hoped for a ride. She never actually spoke. The other kids got the idea there was the possibility of a ride, so were always at the ready, but no matter how packed the vehicle was, Matindi just had to ride in the front, alone!

The fundi had a problem! The promised workers for the trench-digging were not turning up! So we went up there to investigate. The heat was relentless and at first I supposed that was the reason none of the men wanted to work, but I felt some unease in the village. Nobody was talking about it, despite my inquiry. Even Matindi didn’t come running as usual. Some cloud was hanging over the place. With Loti I walked around the village trying to get a feel of what was going on. At some point Matindi arrived and I found myself carrying her.

The pipeline came down from the hill where marijuana was not-so-secretly grown, and arrived at and old water trough we had already rehabilitated. The trough was for communal watering of livestock, but with a tap fitted so it didn’t overflow. Another tap allowed people to take water, but there were only a few houses up there. The line was to go down to an agreed central point in the sub-village, on to the Pentecost church, on further to the Lutheran church and was to end at the school.

With no resolution, I handed Matindi back to her mother, and as I did so, she pointed to a house with her lips and whispered, ‘Mwenyekiti huyu.’ Translated meaning: That’s the chairman. Inferring: That’s the chairman’s house. Curious, because I had been at Michael’s house many times – his wife was a dab hand at cooking turned-over fried eggs, the best ever! So I asked Loti which chairman the house belonged to. He wasn’t sure, but we found it was the village chairman’s! I knew a group of sub-villages made up a village and this house belonged to the chairman of the whole, entire village. With that bit of information I had my answer. This chairman hadn’t been involved with the layout of the water pipe, because we were working with the Pentecost church and the sub-village. It was plain to me that the wife of the sub-village chairman had less distance to carry her water than the village chairman’s wife! A small matter of face.

The more powerful chairman would have liked a branch-pipe going right to his house, but I wasn’t prepared to go quite that far to make peace. So instead we established another branch outlet in a semi-central place that was considerably closer to the village chairman’s house and not an uphill carry for his wife. With the chairman, or his wife, somewhat appeased, work on the trench restarted and the rest of the project went smoothly.

I never met Matindi again, except when I visited the distant Olkung’wado primary school a couple of years later. Her parents had moved down from the hill. I’d never have recognised the girl, all clean and in her newish-blue, school uniform, but she gave me a shy little wave from her desk. After I had completed my business with the Headteacher, at my request Matindi was brought out to meet us. She was so shy and quiet in front of her new school peers, but was happy to take my greetings to her parents.


Submitted: February 04, 2018

© Copyright 2021 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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Comments

hullabaloo22

You got to make some friends in the unlikeliest of places. Nicely told, Moa!

Sun, February 4th, 2018 8:59pm

Author
Reply

Thank you Mama Hullabaloo. Yes, funny how things turn out sometimes. Usianguke

Sun, February 4th, 2018 4:34pm

jaylisbeth

Oh very well penned, Moa. I have never had difficulty making friends even though I'm an introvert.

Mon, February 5th, 2018 12:27am

Author
Reply

Thank you Jay, pleased you enjoyed it. Making new friends can be exciting eh! Usianguke

Sun, February 4th, 2018 4:32pm

unmasked delusions

You have so many stories to tell and I don't think I could ever get tired of them, even things that seem so simple, I just find so interesting when people tell their true stories, it really amazes me every time. Good write

Thu, February 8th, 2018 7:03am

Author
Reply

Well thank you, I appreciate your comment, and I'm pleased you enjoy them. Usianguke

Thu, February 8th, 2018 10:53am

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