After 15 years of being away from home in pursuit of an education, I stood at “garage” formerly Kenya Bus station in Eastleigh, ready and still waiting for the ‘lorry’ which was the main means of transport from Nairobi to Moyale. From stories I had heard, the journey from Nairobi to Moyale town would take at least 2 days. To overcome the boredom, I had carried with me some novels to read on the way, snacks, and a valuable treasure back then -mp3 music player. As we sat waiting for our means of transport, one of the travel agents approached our area to assure us of our safe travel. As this news was being delivered to us, I had been sitting in the waiting lobby for 6 hours, next to a squirmy child who had an undiagnosed stomach-ache that couldn’t give us peaceful moments. I could not read or listen to my music as the waiting room was small and for fear of missing my journey I could not step out.
Drop your maturity hat, play online games, share jokes online, keep track of that group conversation, like, share, consume creativity… just do anything that keeps you sane.
Relief came in when the lorry’s engine was started, our only means of transport home. As the driver stepped on the gas, the noise inflicted pressure on my cochlear. The child adjacent to me didn’t just cry — he let loose desperate, primal screams that could not be extinguished with hugs or sweet Juice. His anguish was so extreme that fellow passengers zoomed right past anger and straight to incredulous pity. As we went past Thika town, I decided to lend out a hand to the mother and held the crying boy. He was gazing at the sky and started pointing at the clouds.
The boy’s mother was embarrassed and anguished with pain. Her face looked pale, tired; her eyes full of tears. An elderly lady seated across kept on encouraging her, but she could take any of that. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “When you travel with babies, or with other passengers your only goal is to arrive.” I asked her to elaborate. She responded, “Well, traveling with kids is a whole different thing than traveling in a vehicle with grown-ups only,” she said. “Forget about napping, reading a book, or listening to music.” It felt she was directing that to me, as I was adjacent to the mother holding a novel that I had tried to read severally but in vain. I tried to listen to music but due to the noise around, it wasn’t an option as well. “For the mother, her primary job is to keep the baby safe and comfortable. Other travellers care about their safe travel and getting to the other side in one piece. They understand none of the mother’s struggles.”
Since then, I have kept this simple yet profound concept in mind in most of my travels. I always take with me key necessities and even though it may not be as fun as it was, the mantra has helped me keep my priorities in check.
After the outbreak of Covid-19, I read articles and listened to shows encouraging people to avoid coronavirus by staying at home and learning new things. At this point, the old lady’s advice came screaming back to mind. Today’s flight or journey (equated situation created by covid-19), has been very much delayed: not by hours, but months. Travel conditions are —to put it mildly— suboptimal. Each of us should have in mind one goal; to arrive on the other side in one piece.
With our reality changing, we also need to change the metrics by which we judge our success. If Satisfaction=Experience–Expectations, and much of the experience is out of our control, this is the time to make sure our expectations are realistic and achievable.
I am praying that the current situation is one of the passing waves or travel delays or swept bridge by floods. No one can easily tell about the anxiety caused by job losses for others or severe unpredictable situations and unsettled minds. All you will hear is, read/write a book, reclaim your beach body and do something extraordinary.
As you hope to cross over, your main job is to maintain sanity, stay healthy, and where you can, offer kindness to your fellow humans. (No, this doesn’t mean you have to hold someone else’s baby like me in the lorry for the rest of the journey it means sharing food stuff or cash and checking up on your neighbours.) For parents like the lady whose child terrorized us in the lorry, your children may force you to watch cartoon network and animations over and over.
Given the current norm, this is absolutely the wrong time to take on unreasonably ambitious goals. When you’re trying to hang onto a job or keep an organization or company afloat, while home schooling your kids, arranging ways to continue with advocacy, supporting the less fortunate in the community and bathing only occasionally, you are already operating at a very high level.
I know you often open the fridge at 2am and find it empty, get disappointed that snacks you had budgeted for two weeks, don’t last a day. You are continuously finding yourself have dinner late in the night, working at night and gazing, continuously browsing, and switching from twitter to Facebook to Instagram, WhatsApp status and the new darling Tiktok. Forget the motivational nonsense and over consumption of daily updates on the number of infections and deaths. Drop your maturity hat, play online games, share jokes online, keep track of that group conversation, like, share, consume creativity… just do anything that keeps you sane.
Dear Kenyans and Africans, I know you’ve heard or watched the news from Italy, France and USA. And just so we are clear, Italy is not Somalia, France is not Southern Sudan and USA is not DR Congo- the first two are countries in Europe while the latter is the famous America. These are developed countries whose health sector was and is still rocked and almost crumbling under covid-19, not forgetting that they are among the G8 countries – highly industrialized nations. If Covid-19 has managed to destabilize G8 countries with proper established health system, what about African countries like Kenya? Our politicians and prominent businessmen and women are always flying out of the country for treatment abroad.
By now, everyone remembers CS Kagwe famous statement, “If we continue to behave normally, this disease will treat us abnormally.” To me this means that things may get worse if we are not cautious. In the meantime, help yourself by turning on the self-preservation mode. Use what you have sparingly, limit your movement, treat everyone as a covid-19 carrier.
The undeniable superheroes out here clearing our ways or mending broken bridges right now are not your prophets performing miracles, not preachers, not your favourite avengers character or those handsome men you are always fancying on soap operas. They are under-paid doctors, nurses, other workers in the hospitals, the workers getting food to the shelves, community champions who are collecting food stuff, and creating awareness about the disease.
To cross over we must help our heroes and heroines by staying home and caring for ourselves and those around us. We can do our best within the controllable elements of the experience. This is the time when you secure your mask before your child’s. Sleep eight hours, stretch, meditate, take a walk, and observe the guidelines including social distancing. If you’ve got that covered, look for ways to brighten someone else’s day.
Please don’t beat yourself up for not using the ‘lockdown’ to “live your best life” or start a real estate business in your pyjamas.
Back to my story, when we finally reached Moyale barrier, no one among us cared how we looked, what we went through or anything else, all we cared for was that we arrived safely, having maintained our cool.
Ahmed Maalim- Manager, Governance and Advocacy