You are miserable. You think because you carry fruits to work and you drink eight glasses of water you finally gotten your body to a state of nirvana and that brings a level of joy to you. You imagine that the group chats with your close-friends is a high acknowledgment of your social stability. Go ahead and lose one eye, or your job and see how many of them will leave the group chat. You think just because watchmen flash you salutes as you drive in you have attained supreme social capital. You found Zumba? You are still miserable. But see, you don’t know it yet because you think misery is sitting in a loo and only realising later that the toilet roll is over. This is a different kind of misery, I call it latent misery. Yes, I came up with that alone. It’s a theory I coined not long ago as my ass froze in the hills of West Pokot.
You are miserable because you are locked so far out from any reality set on this limited path of familiarity that you trod. And the only reason it continues to work is because you don’t know better. There is more out there, beyond Waiyaki Way, or Mombasa Road. Beyond your safety zone of familiarity there are people who find happiness in such tiny things that will break your heart. People who use the generosity of the earth and the acts of mankind to find fulfilment. People who don’t sweat the small stuff. People furthest from this deceptive smog of Nairobi.
And do you know what these people would say if roles were changed and they found themselves standing in your spit-shined city-shoes? They’d say to someone like me? “Biko it doesn’t matter your reasons for not blogging for two months. It doesn’t matter that you are a callous, lazy and dispiriting soul who leaves High School unattended without as much as a word.” And do you know what I’d tell them? Nothing. I’d look at my feet with the embarrassment of a village girl being seduced. And I’d be remorseful. Then these guys would say, “OK, then Biko, tell us about West Pokot.”
West Pokot is green like a co-wife. It’s also cold. Then there is the view. My God, the view! Wait, I can’t even call it a view. A view is what you see when you look out of your kitchen window and see the spot where the neighbour’s dog likes to piss on. This is a vista. A panorama. It’s rolling plains of greenery relentlessly unravelling and only disrupted, briefly, by murram roads whereupon donkeys amble by dutifully, pulling cart laden with whatever. An occasional motorbike will zoom by, carrying a goat. A group of teenage boys stroll by, walking erect, bony knees punching the air, eyes shining with something that I imagined was valour.
Teenage girls carrying jerricans on their heads also amble by avoiding our eye contact. And the kids. Cute little things with old, gaudy and dirty sweaters stand by the roadside grinning with teeth whiter than the Kim Kardashian’s knickers. They wave. I wave. Everybody waves.
When was the last time you saw a merino sheep? You will see those merino sheep in some parts of West Pokot, shuffling around looking like they are wearing expensive fur coats from Burberry. In fact, merino sheep is the only farm animal that you look at and get an overwhelming urge to hug. Ok, it’s just me. You will drive by modest tin-roofed homes that stand shivering by the foot of hills, but with such charming chimneys from which smoke curls in the air like the serpent from the book of Genesis. We drive further inside up the highest mountain at a place called Tapach where it’s so cold and windy the trees grow frozen in one direction. Like they all bend in one direction like it’s a Halloween set. And the names of these places; Kamologon, Kaibichibichi, Kiptapar, Kapsoit and Koisungur. They sound like the sound of women breaking twigs to stock a fire in a three-stoned stove.
I was there to write about dairy farming and how the two warring neighbours -the Pokot and the Marakwet – have learnt to coexist and produce milk. And I met the elders from Pokot and the elders from Marakwet and marvelled how distinctly similar they all are with their beguiling smiles. They all looked wise and crafty and regal. They all wear bad sweaters. And they never ever raise their voices. They speak like they just woke up – every syllable is an act of diplomacy.
I didn’t see one gun. Or an arrow. I didn’t see anybody smoke (it’s banned in Kaibichibichi and environ) and I didn’t see any drunkard. You know how you go to Central Kenya and after every tree you find someone talking to himself in a near drunken stupor? None of that in West Pokot, booze is banned at the border of these two tribes. But even though relative peace prevails you still sense suspicion in the air. A generational suspicion. But it’s there, suspended by good reason. You smell it. You feel it through the cold. It stays on your jacket.
Anyway, so my minders reckon that I needed to speak to this widowed Marakwet lady raising children from the sale of milk. We drive across the border of the two tribes and get to this very humble home where we are welcomed by this very unassuming woman. The culture there is different. The men rule. The women follow. Literally. None of this craziness of who did the dishes jana. You know how it’s getting gradually difficult to differentiate men from women because men now wear the same pants as women? There the men stand out. And they get their underwear washed for them, but only because they provide, consistently. And they protect. And they offer direction. Even if it’s the wrong one.
We sit outside in the green lawn on this makeshift bench. We are served tea. It’s myself, the PR holding my hand in this trip, our transport coordinator (ahem, driver), a Pokot elder, three villagers (one of them eating a blade of grass, found that cool) a Marakwet elder and some village kids who are here to watch, perhaps hoping that it’s a circumcision ceremony. Mine.
After my interview and the polite banter, in my eternal brilliance, I ask if I can see the cows. I mean, it’s not enough that I had been served tea, I just had to confirm where the milk came from? My gracious hostess, two gentlemen and one elder take me to the adjacent paddy next to the house where some Freisier cows were feeding. The children, all of them follow us. I take pictures.
I should have been content with just looking and taking pictures. But I just had to touch the cow, perhaps to confirm that indeed it was a cow and not a car? And I suspect that one of the cows was in her hormonal stage, having a bad hide day. Who knows? Or perhaps it didn’t like my cologne. Or my face. Or perhaps when it touched it (on the thigh) it imagined I was from Muranga because it lashed out with its right left leg and kicked me in the shoulder. I swear.
I was startled before I felt the pain. Have you been kicked by a cow? I was sure the damned cow (and I use that word as an insult in this context) had broken my shoulder. The pain! I had to look if I still had a shoulder. The kids guffawed. Kids are foolish, they will laugh at anything. The men grinned. Nobody made a move to see if I was alive.
My most immediate reaction was to kick the foolish cow back because where I come from we don’t turn the other shoulder. But you can’t kick a widow’s cow now, can you? It’s perverse. So I acted like it wasn’t even painful. I mean, I get kicked by a cow all the time, no big deal. But deep down I wanted to cry. I wanted to ask someone to look if I had broken something, but nobody did. I was where men have been shot by arrows and bullets, where men have watched their homes burnt down with their families in them, I wasn’t about to start whining about a cow’s kick.
But I don’t remember that cow fondly. I hope wherever it is its udders pain at night. I hope its udders grew so big with milk it made it develop back pain. I hope it’s getting bad dreams of it’s hoofs being boiled for dog food. But everything happens for a reason and if you want to know the truth, I think all my sins here on this blog have been absolved by that kick, even though it wasn’t to the ass.[Photo credit: Rough Guides]