I haven’t logged too many years on this earth, neither have I covered substantial mileage outside of our Kenyan borders (like I want to). But I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people from Guyana to Australia, Algeria to Seychelles, South Africa to Japan, and Peru to Nigeria. . . You name it! And they have each painted the canvas that is my life with a kaleidoscope of different hues, strokes and styles. Made it oh so colorful! And I have enjoyed featuring them all in my life gallery. People from such distinct and variant walks of life that if I’d have to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ I’d be in thousand dollar chinchilla boots to barefoot and everything in between. Out of all these people, the ones that have struck me most are:
1. Mr. Garang- I shared a couple of IR classes with him and he was truly inspirational! The man is from the conflicted south Sudan region where he served and held rank in the military. He still has major scars from the struggles he has encountered in his life. The stories he has recounted to me have alarmed, awed, disgusted and depressed me. But his spirit and dedication are very encouraging. Plus engaging him in political debate is always a great way to work up a mental sweat. He is amazing.
2. Guye- I met this kid for a couple of hours two years ago and I’ve never forgotten him. He is born of a Kikuyu mother less than half his Israeli father’s age. But what is most fascinating about him is that he is an autistic savant! Absolutely brilliant mind but not all the way normal. This boy has the most amazing memory ever. And he aspires to join the U.S. Navy when he comes of age. He evoked both sadness and amazement from me. Guye was quite something.
3. Mama Rumila- she was an ancient Indian woman I knew in my childhood. Her actual name was Urmila but I guess people confused that with Rumila lol. When I say ancient, I mean she was so old, she probably had dinosaurs as pets! But even at her age she was always clad in beautiful saris, silver toe-rings, colorful Indian bangles and eye-makeup! To top it all off, she was a fortune teller! A real one. Complete with a deck of tarot cards, sea shells and incense. She could palm-read too! She would come around often and make predictions and read our near futures while my sister plaited her scarce hair into a French braid. Plus she always carried an enormous piece of crochet table cloth that was never ending. Mama Rumila could cure my mum’s relentless migraines using only a ten cent coin, or a tummy ache by simply putting her hand on your stomach. She was magic! I speak of her in past tense because I’m not sure she is still with us. She made my days growing up feel so exciting!
4. Professor Gale- his class was the first in the IR discipline that I ever took and it crystallized my confidence in my choice of major. He is a superbly matured man with wispy white hair, ample height and slight build. Apart from his remarkably outstanding wealth of knowledge and brain power, his most note-worthy and impressive attribute has to be his generous heart. Dr. Gale, with all his degrees (from Harvard even), lives a very simple but probably quite fulfilling life. He has spent a substantial part of his long life and resources as a social worker dedicated to improving the lives of less fortunate children in our community. And for that, I think he is an angel! People laugh at his worn and dirty clothes (I confess I did too before) but they are a testament to the time and money he’d rather spend on feeding, clothing and educating children in the slums. More worthy investments. If I were to name anybody that I believe has reached the self-actualization rank of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I wouldn’t hesitate to yell out ‘Dr. Tom Gale.’ His teaching methodology too was super. I especially enjoyed the book reports. I’m glad to have sat through his class. He makes me believe in humanity and want to be a better human being.
5. I really can’t seem to remember this girl’s name but that is not to mean she is not memorable. It just means even with my knack at recalling the most intricate of details, I’m horrible with foreign names. She was in Dr. Gale’s class with me. She was white as snow, had the blondest hair and always wore ‘follow-me’ pink lipstick. Very opinionated. Very obstinate. Very intelligent. Her American accent and the fact that she was an exchange student from America had me fooled that she actually was an American. Until the day I saw that her silver pendant had the word ‘Allah’ written in Arabic and I asked her why she was wearing it (because I assumed she was a Christian). She explained to me that she was actually a Bosnian. Muslim. And that her family had fled to the U.S. as refugees when she was younger. She told me of all the turmoil they had been through and of her passionate dream to aid refugees and IDPs all around the world (with her charity being intended to begin at home of course) in attempts to restore their lives. Her history was disturbing. Her future plans inspiring and beautiful. I do hope she one day accomplishes her goals. It’s people like her who make IHL live on.
6. Again, I can’t remember this woman’s name but this time it’s because I was determined to forget it! She is probably my weirdest encounter yet. She approached me at the Safari Park stage to ask me for directions and from there things turned to be, ummm how do they put it? “stranger than fiction”? She told me, all the while speaking in Kiswahili that she can ‘read’ me. And she proved it too by telling me things that she couldn’t possibly have guessed unless she actually did have supernatural insight and psychic abilities. She divulged very specific details of my life even going so far as to name people in my life and describe places in my house. It was a simultaneously surreal and unsettling experience. Then when she started speaking of ‘seeing’ an accident it turned to downright scary! Eventually she asked me for money (after correctly stating exactly how much I had on me) so I concluded that it was a con. But this woman was a complete stranger. Ajnabi! And she knew all manner of personal and intimate details about my life. Freaky! Plus she even made me aware of situations that I didn’t know existed until after she told me. I know that they might be dismissed as self-fulfilling prophecies (the Pygmalion effect) but I daresay she was a seer of sorts! One who decided to try and make a profit of her ‘gift.’ Funny thing is I can’t even remember what she looks like! Audhubillah!
7. Saadiya- she is a Somali woman approaching 40 that I met through a family friend. She is beautiful and has a flare for fashion. She too shared her life story with me and it was quite an adventurous one. At 15 and living in Garissa she was betrothed to a man over three times her senior as his third wife. Fortunately she managed to run away and she ended up in the states. There she spent 20years and held jobs as a maid, a toilet cleaner, a drug transporter and for the majority of her stay, a prostitute. One who was treated like a queen by some mean and like garbage by others. She has been beaten! Gang-banged! Taken on shopping sprees! Denied pay! Travelled to Mexico! Everything! But after 20years, she decided to come back home. She had quite a hefty nest-egg and she invested in real estate. Believe me she is now living large and very proud of herself. She takes her past as the price she had to pay to make her and her family’s lives what they are today! She told me “Abayo (sister), I don’t regret my past. I don’t hate it. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m just glad its over.” To have such an attitude. . . I don’t know what to say. And the way she laughs, the way she talks, simply the way she is-it’s so carefree. I just don’t understand how she does it!
These people have impacted me in so many ways. Good and bad. Both. But what I’m trying to say is that they have made lasting impressions on me. Sometimes I just think about them and go ‘damn!’ in all it’s different intonations. Because seriously, damn!