My friends and I in Rome


BY Winfred Nyokabi

So, somehow, no idea how, I found myself in Vatican. The ultimate dream for a recent Catholic convert! All those stories I heard and read about the smallest richest country within a country that has its own army and president was about to be my home for four days. My butterflies were literally having a carnivore complete with a mwomboko troupe. My love for food was completely forgotten, I think the tapeworms were completely wiped out by the forced fasting. I’m not sure they have survived the cayenne pepper and paprika though. I made a bet with my travel mate that I would shake the hand of the Pope before our stay was over. I seriously need some docile blood for the Maa me. Can someone summon the village chief, I sort of lost that bet and am in debt in the tune of a few dollars (hangs head in shame).

Me, a descendant of a freedom fighter, standing in front of a naked man, looking straight into his nefayayas

Well, my guides were gracious enough to ensure the shock would be served in small doses. They at least try to pretend to understand my Kikuyu background that has issues with naked men. I have been rudely, more than enough times, been told its nude, not naked when it comes to sculptures. We went to the Massimo Palace museum that was full of nude men sculptures, complete with the nini.

I got a small reprieve when I eventually got to my accommodation. There’s nothing that unites Kenyans than finding yourself in a strange land that speaks in a strange language. Through my royal connections, I got accommodation at a seminary. Heeeee that is when Kumbaya becomes your anthem every morning! Yaani you wake up, walk outside and the only faces you see have more melanin than you, the closing song at morning mass is in Kiswahili, and more than five people speaking in Kikuyu?

The ladies were overdressed

I knew at that point, God does not eat ugali and cabbage, although right now that is the most expensive meal I can eat. Since I have been pastored by an Italian priest who speaks way better Kikuyu than I will ever speak, I thought I could impress my hosts by always greeting them buongiorno. Sema kushine! Alafu the introduction, “my name is Winfred, I come from Laikipia, currently living in…” sema filanga nice! Unfortunately I remember I have to go back and sit for an exam to earn that title, signs.

Finally my D-day arrived! Off to Vatican we walked. Yes, it takes 45 minutes to walk around that country. I couldn’t believe it either. The security check at the door will put our own DoD to shame. At least life in a military barracks came to my rescue here and I did not bring shame to my ancestors. There is something divine about history, especially when it is connected to the spiritual. Walking on the same carpets Popes have walked on for ages, drinking the same water from the fountains, I began to think am a saint. The Maa blood got boiling and again, I dared a Swiss guard to a duel. Those men drink from the fountain of patience, I need to find its source and just pitch my tent there, never to leave.  He very patiently explained to me that I can take all the pictures I want of him, but none with him. Did I ever mention I don’t understand no? Well I wasn’t taking it kindly. I mean, c’mon, I just walked where your boss got elected, I am the beautiful Kikuyu queen of Laikipiashire, I mean, hello! What do you mean no? That was my first lesson at humility. These lessons would be plenty in that country. Future husband, you might just be in luck after this trip.

The biggest shock for me there was the Sistine chapel. I mentioned earlier am a convert. Coming from a protestant background means I still have issues about images inside the church. I have gotten used to that and in fact I have a decent collection of my favourite saints and archangels. The Sistine chapel is a protestant’s worst nightmare! Literally! It has naked, opps, nude pictures covering the entire ceiling! And this is the place the Pope is elected from! That is how I knew prayers do get answered. Then we got to the underground chapels where all the saints are buried. Now, imagine how we walk around the graveyards back home. Now, picture praying mass inside, literally, inside a gigantic tomb! Weeee, that was the day I realised I know nothing!

I should mention at this point I was in the company of three very handsome gentlemen from the Bari ya Nyakeiro. They took it upon themselves to ensure my every whim and wish was met to the T. Yes, my royal highness was duly noted and acted upon. I was wined and dined, taken to concerts where I took pictures with famous bands. Met a friend to the late Mzee Moi, at a requiem mass at that, and the best part, taken to the catacombs.

This is where I realised I know nothing about being a Christian! That was the first time I had ever heard that name. But, being the queen of Laikipiashire, means I have learnt how to sound very intelligent at the push of a few keyboard keys, and had within 20secs, the history of the place. You know how we are taught to act/pretend to be foolish so we don’t scare the men away, here, me, I was not pretending. I knew nothing! My knight in shining armour came shinning right through. The way he explained that history, for a moment all 3 of us forgot he was a surgeon and mistook him for a history professor.

My worst nightmare then happened! They made me run after the metro, sobs. Forget that I had been bragging, rather loudly and boisterously, how we Kenyans are the best in the world, I only run after chicken for Christmas. Christmas comes once a year, more sobs. And I haven’t even been home for two Christmases! These people don’t understand there is a difference between winning marathons when you are Kipchoge and being the cheering squad at the finish line, sobs uncontrollably!

Writer with the with the ensemble Ricercare Antico Riccardo Fassi Analog Trio, at the Musica barocca in jazz

After 10 minutes I started writing my eulogy in my head since my heart was beating in my hair, I could smell blood and my brain was frozen. I had a mathematician in the team, so I put him in charge of the few forints I had in my pocket, the engineer got to design my reusable coffin and the doctor got the job of making sure am well preserved for scientific research. Guys, I know you will eventually get this piece in your hands, just know you qualified to be in my will. And please, promise to never make me run that fast ever again, unless it’s to shake the hand of the Pope, ok, now for that, I will fly.

Apart from getting the chance to sit where my hero sat, touching his tomb, and visiting my favourite disciple’s burial place, being given a command to stay and eating mussels! I have to say Rome has remained so far my best experience. Although Romans drivers are worse than the matatus in Githurai.

Ps// today not for future husband, naomba srikal, can you get some of these Roman engineers from 2000 years ago to come do the road in my village? I walked on the same road Peter walked on just before he was crucified and it has never been repaired.



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Pauline

    She is great ……..

  2. Tsimi Lore

    This is a lovely piece. I must say again, Winnie you are multi talented! Consider writing novels. You will do well big time.

  3. Catherine Kiboi

    A great piece! I love your sense of humour and your thought process! Go girl you are an excellent writer!

  4. Agnes

    Ngai this is wonderful you are more than what you have ever thought you are! Hidden talent of a writer has been uncovered love you and more Grace be upon you.


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