In Summary
  • Just the other day, my daughter called from her room “Mum, alarm yako imelia. Amka…” (Mum your alarm has gone off. Wake up…).
  • And I thought to myself, I better change; I better be like Mama. And yes, I am slowly enacting a few changes. Sticking to my diary, no run-ins during the day; and waking up early.

Wife. Career woman. Grandmother. Subsistence farmer. Teacher. Comforter. If there were a single word to describe all these things that my mother is, then perhaps that is what I would call her.

Mama is a good planner and knows her diary like the palm of her hand. Her day is always scripted on her mind even before she starts it. She knows the duties that each of my two nephews and niece have to take for the day if they are not in school. For her, discipline comes first, and as a teacher she knows that idleness yields truancy in children.

NEVER COMES BACK EMPTY-HANDED

If she is not going to work, Mama heads to the shamba to check on her crops, and do some weeding. She will engage my two nephews at the farm, and have my niece deal with some of the small household chores like washing utensils before she follows her to the farm. At the end of the day, Mama never comes back home empty-handed. She will get food from her shamba, from cowpeas and cassava to green vegetables and bananas. She will later prepare a sumptuous meal for her family. Once in a while she will cook one of her kienyeji chickens.

Before I left Mama’s house for university and later Nairobi (iLovi), I used to wake up at 5am. I had no alarm clock or a watch but I had mastered the cockcrow like a clock. I knew my diary on the palm of my hand just like Mama. I knew how to bring tea to boil even without firewood but with the dry maize stalks at the cowshed. I knew how to rush to the river and fill several jerrycans of water before women in the village made long queues that would make me camp at the river for a good part of the day. I would later work out how to transport that water home in the course of the day.

Not only that, I knew how to collect firewood, and graze cattle in the fields when not tilling the farm with a few womenfolk. I was also this girl who would herd the cattle in the grazing fields whenever a herdsboy decided to ran away. Some of these herd boys deliberately ran away whenever I was on holiday from university and I had no choice but to graze the cows.

SURVIVAL SKILLS

My three year’s stay at home before I joined university really did expose me to what rural life can do to a young woman. I was in my late teens, but the life had taught me so many life survival skills most of which I use today. Growing up without a brother too, taught me unique survival skills that most girls who grow up with their brothers tend to lack. I started interacting with fundis, checking if trenches at the farms had been done as instructed, ensuring that coffee left the farm to the factory, and dealing with the officials at the coffee factory and such others. This exposed me to the technical aspects of running a home.

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