decorating the tree


[Merry Christmas and Happy New Year]

The Diary of a Kenyan Village girl in Europe

By Winfred Nyokabi 

Polisinavida, polisinavida…. It is Christmas! Best time of the year for any Kenyan child who grew up in the 90s. This meant Chapati, Nyama Choma, Pilau and all those delicacies were going to start flowing. Did I mention soda madiaba and treetop?

I think I just revealed my age. Sigh. Anyways, as you already know am currently freezing my toes out in the land of cayenne pepper. You remember that song, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one I used to know…? Please don’t wish for it! That white, we used cotton wool to symbolise snow on the fake trees we managed to convince the grumpy mum to let us adorn with the fake mushaino, here is real.

I will try describe the cold, though am yet to get the correct vocabulary for it. You see on an early morning as you run in the plains as you take the cows to the cattle dip and it had been raining all night and Mt. Kenya is angry at you?

When she has been letting Laikipia have her full wrath, now multiply that cold by like 4 times! I could not feel my nose, the air got caught in the tuhairs that peep out and I couldn’t breathe until a kind passer by showed me how to blow air through my scarf.

Have I mentioned I was wearing every sweta my mother packed for me? Including the one my freedom fighter grandmother wore in the forest as she fought off the bariya Nyakiero left me? And the cold obeyed none of those.

Enough with the cold. Let’s talk about the streets. When you think Christmas, the village is full of those Nyairofi little rascals who think goats are cute dogs with four ears. They bring life to the plains with their English of nose, making granny speak in her acquired coloniser English.

Koinange Street at noon on a Sunday

‘I need my botolaiti,’ poor granny shouts asking for her torch [spotlight]. They will eat the sweet potatoes straight from the farm even as the over made-up slay mum keeps wiping their hands with Dettol wipes, because kababa will get bacterial infection from smelling soil. Well, let’s just say I could give anything to put up with the Nyairofi crowd right now.

Walking down the streets here in the village feels like walking through Koinange Street at noon on a Sunday when everyone has to pretend to be Christian. Deserted is an understatement. Even the birds have gone to the ‘’I don’t know where place‘’everyone else is hiding.

Walking the empty streets

My roommate Aida and I, tried to go shopping for food on Boxing Day, by the way, is it true they actually sat down and decided to give it a different name at the cabinet? Sigh. All shops were closed, not even mama mboga was open. Luckily, my guardian angel was working overtime, and we had been given extra food by a very kind family and we ate that for two days.

Searching for the perfect tree

The best part is I got to buy a real tree. We took a train ride for 20 minutes to go searching for the perfect one, but wapi, nothing. We ended up buying a book for a present. Oh, I forgot to mention, here you have to buy a present for your friends and colleagues alike.

You don’t just hand them over, you have to wrap them, write an emotional note preferably a poem to accompany them and place them in a Christmas themed bag.

Back to the tree, we came back to our start point and eventually found a hawking point for trees. After careful inspection, we settled on one. You should have seen me inspecting the bushes, you would have thought I have done this for years on end. We took it home and it was eventually time to decorate it.

I finally got my presents

Yes, I did not have chapati this year, but it still ended up being way better than I had thought. Absolutely delicious Magyar cuisine complete with a loving family and a box full of gifts to boot! Thank you Santa, I know I was a naughty girl, but you still made the child inside dance as she cried with joy. Yes, literally. I got dined and wined, by the way on hot spiced wine, by an amazing family that I had never met before. The kindness and love that I have received is beyond comprehension.

Ps: Dear future husband, now I know how to pick a Christmas tree and decorate it. Please place the order of the shiny Chinese decorations in weird colours as you come to bring some goats to my old man.


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